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Corita  Kent 

Interviewed  by  Bernard  Galm 

Completed  under  the  auspices 

of  the 

Oral  History  Program 

University  of  California 

Los  Angeles 

Copyright  (c)  1977 
The  Regents  of  the  University  of  California 

This  manuscript  is  hereby  made  available  for  research 
purposes  only.   All  literary  rights  in  the  manuscript, 
including  the  right  to  publication,  are  reserved  to  the 
University  Library  of  the  University  of  California  at 
Los  Angeles.   No  part  of  the  manuscript  may  be  quoted 
for  publication  without  the  written  permission  of  the 
University  Librarian  of  the  University  of  California 
at  Los  Angeles. 


This  interview  is  one  of  a  series,  entitled  "Los  Angeles 
Art  Community:   Group  Portrait,"  funded  by  the  National 
Endowment  for  the  Humanities  and  conducted  from  July  1, 
1975  to  March  31,  1977  by  the  UCLA  Oral  History  Program. 
The  project  was  directed  jointly  by  Page  Ackerman, 
University  Librarian,  and  Gerald  Nordland,  Director, 
UCLA  Art  Galleries,  and  administered  by  Bernard  Galm, 
Director,  Oral  History  Program.   After  selection  of 
interview  candidates  and  interviewers,  the  Program 
assumed  responsibility  for  the  conduct  of  all  interviews 
and  their  processing. 


Introduction vii 

Interview  History xii 

TAPE  I,  SIDE  ONE  (April  6,  1976) 1 

Birth  in  Fort  Dodge,  Iowa--Childhood  in 
Vancouver  and  then  Hollywood--A  Catholic 
education--Early  art  interest,  education 
and  experience — Family  life — Alois  Schardt, 
a  great  teacher--Charles  Eames — A  childhood 
delight  in  words — Words  in  prints — Decision 
to  become  a  nun--Missionary  work  in  British 
Columbia--Teaching  and  learning  (Immaculate 
Heart  College,  Chouinard,  Woodbury,  USC) — 
Sister  Magdalen  Mary — Travels:   visiting 
New  York  galleries  and  collecting  European 
folk  art--Building  the  IHC  art  department — 
The  Lord  Is  with  Thee,  first  important 
print--The  Great  Men  series  at  IHC — A 
lesson  in  serigraphy  technique--Graduate 
work  at  USC--Interest  in  abstract 
expressionism--A  visit  with  Ben  Shahn. 

TAPE  I,  SIDE  TWO  (April  6,  1976) 29 

Los  Angeles  art  scene  in  the  fifties — 
Ceremony — Mary's  Days--Celebration  and 
criticism--Organic  and  dead  traditions — 
Social  justice  themes — Building  blocks — 
The  folk  art  collection--Charles  Eames — 
Teaching  teachers — Early  printmaking — 
Working  with  Harry  Hambly — Gathering 
quotations — The  Impasse  of  figurative 
art--From  medieval  models  to  abstract 
expressionism--Words  as  initial  ways  into 
works — Curled  words--Inf luence  of  other 
religious  art — A  rejection — Mural  for 
Vatican  Pavilion,  1964  World's  Fair — 
Other  contacts  with  the  church--Kent 
family  reaction  to  art  work — Influence 
of  students--Teaching  methods:   sheer 
quantity--Emphasizing  the  creative  over 
the  analytical--Grading  and  attendance-- 
Displays  for  the  National  Art  Education 
Association  convention. 


TAPE  II,  SIDE  ONE  (April  6,  1976) 58 

NAEA  display--Banner  shows  for  the  American 
Institute  of  Architects  and  the  Los  Angeles 
County  Museum--Inf luence  of  the  banners-- 
Poor  imitations. 

[Second  Part]  (April  13,  1976) 63 

More  on  banners — "Survival  with  Style" 
exhibit--World  Council  of  Churches 
exhibit  in  Uppsala--The  Geneva  show, 
1970--Social  consciousness:   Daniel  Berrigan 
and  other  inf luences--Thoinas  Merton — An 
aversion  to  proselytizing:   Jews  in  class-- 
Commitment  expressed  through  art--Student 
restiveness  over  group  projects--IBM 
Christmas  show  in  New  York,  1963--Timidity 
of  student  activism  at  IHC--Vatican 
Pavilion  Wall,  1964 — The  Westinghouse  series 
and  the  Container  Corporation  ad--A  happening 
for  the  Westinghouse  Company  meetings. 

TAPE  II,  SIDE  TWO  (April  13,  1976) 85 

Happenings--Disassociating  creative  from 
critical  functions--A  happening  for  theologians 
at  Yale--Quality--Overcoming  the  false 
prejudice  against  "ugliness" :   tire  companies — 
Living  in  Boston  vs.  Hollywood — Use  of  commercial 
phrases  in  prints — Luke  2:14,51  and  In — Color — 
Calmer  colors  in  recent  work — Student  restiveness 
over  group  projects  and  requirements — Intrusion 
of  personal  fame--Being  an  artist  vs.  being  a 
teacher--Decision  to  stop  teaching — Discouraging 
would-be  artists — Celia  Hubbard  and  the  Botolph 
Group--A  Boston  tea  party,  Christmas  1969 — 
Channeling  of  profits  and  prestige  back  into 
IHC — Administrative  role  in  the  college--Ventures 
into  publishing:   Footnotes  and  Headlines  and  the 
Believe-In  series — Easter  "tomatoes." 

TAPE  III,  SIDE  ONE  (April  13,  1976) Ill 

More  on  Mary  as  "tomato". 

[video]  (April  20,  1976) 112 

The  Corita  Prints  gallery — Starting  the 
gallery--Adult  education  classes--Making 

banners — Need  for  a  gallery--Evolution  of 
the  gallery--Frames  and  sizes--Jack  Mullen's 
promotional  work--TYpes  of  clients--Mary 
Downey's  recollection  of  Corita  as  a  child; 
family's  reaction  to  her  becoming  a  nun-- 
Gallery  schedules — The  High  Cards--Never- 
Again  show  and  other  exhibits — A  survey  of 
representative  prints:   The  Lord  Is  with 
Thee;  religious  art  of  the  fifties; 
Benedictio ;  1^   Love  You  Very--Words  from 
billboards,  ads--Printing  on  pellon--Doing 
prints  for  money-raising  groups — Printmaking 
technique — Watercolors  and  paintings--Rainbow 
series--Using  photographs--Shell  writing 
series--Changing  use  of  color--Work  from 
Vietnam  period. 

TAPE  III,  SIDE  TWO  [video]  (April  20,  1976) 140 

The  "Corita"  signature  on  gallery  fence — 
The  Greatest  Show  of  Worth  (circus  alphabet) -- 
Love  series--Participation  in  the  local  art 
scene--Decision  by  Immaculate  Heart  nuns  to 
form  a  lay  religious  community--Rigidity  of 
the  Los  Angeles  hierarchy — Attitudes  of  the 
Catholic  community  and  the  IHC  alumni — "A 
Nun  Is  a  Woman" — The  decision  to  leave  the 
IH  community. 

Index 151 

Index  of  Corita  Kent  Works 157 

[Photograph  of  Corita  Kent  by  Nancy  Olexo] 



Frances  Elizabeth  (Corita)  Kent  was  born  in  Fort 
Dodge,  Iowa,  to  Robert  Vincent  Kent  and  Edith  Genevieve 
Sanders,  November  20,  1918.   In  order  to  pursue  business 
interests,  her  father  relocated  the  family  in  Vancouver, 
Canada,  where  they  remained  for  several  years.   He  then 
moved  to  California,  where  the  family  settled  and  where 
Frances  attended  school. 

Her  interest  in  art  was  evident  when  she  was  a  child; 
she  enjoyed  designing,  drawing,  and  printing.   Her  enthusiasm 
attracted  the  attention  of  an  art  teacher  who  encouraged 
her  by  giving  her  private  art  classes  after  school.   Her 
parents  also  supported  her  and  always  urged  her  to  be 
original  in  her  artistic  endeavors. 

After  high  school,  Frances  entered  the  Immaculate 
Heart  of  Mary  religious  community  and  took  the  name  Sister 
Mary  Corita.   She  earned  her  BA  from  Immaculate  Heart 
College  in  1941.   She  also  took  classes  at  Otis  and 
Chouinard   art  institutes,  and  in  1951  she  earned  her 
master's  degree  in  art  history  at  University  of  Southern 

As  a  member  of  the  Immaculate  Heart  community  and 
college  faculty,  Sister  Corita  came  in  contact  with 
Dr.  Alois  Schardt  and  Charles  Fames;  they  played  a  major 


role  in  guiding  her  artistic  and  intellectual  direction. 
Through  them  she  learned  the  value  of  change  and 
constancy  in  art,  ideas  which  concurred  with  her  own 
growing  dissatisfaction  with  the  limitations  of  figurative 
art.   Abstract  expressionism  attracted  her,  and  she 
explored  its  possibilities,  using  the  insight  gained 
from  Schardt  and  Eames.   From  Mrs.  Alfredo  Martinez,  the 
widow  of  the  renowned  Mexican  muralist,  she  acquired  the 
skills  of  serigraphy. 

In  1952  her  serigraph  The  Lord  Is  with  Thee  won 
first  prize  at  the  Los  Angeles  County  Museum  show, 
California  State  Fair,  and  many  other  shows.   These 
successes  encouraged  her  tremendously  and  impelled  her  to 
continue  in  the  direction  she  had  begun.   In  her  work, 
which  has  often  been  referred  to  as  liturgical  or  religious 
art  ("anything  that  was  any  good  had  a  religious  quality"), 
Corita  achieves  a  freshness  and  joy.   Her  goal  is  to 
synthesize  reasoning  with  the  intuitive,  and  the  critical 
with  the  creative. 

As  head  of  the  Immaculate  Heart  College  Department  of 
Art  from  1964  to  1968,  Sister  Corita  established  its  art 
program  as  one  of  the  more  progressive  in  the  country. 
She  helped  begin  a  folk  art  collection  and  expanded  it 
through  purchases  made  in  Europe  and  America.   She 
initiated  the  Great  Men  series,  a  dialogue  series  which 


brought  eminent  artists  and  thinkers,  such  as  Charles 
Eames,  Buckminster  Fuller,  Peter  Yates,  and  Virgil 
Thomson,  into  contact  with  the  college  community,  partic- 
ularly the  students  of  the  art  department.   To  further 
enrich  their  learning  program.  Sister  Corita  also  involved 
her  students  in  commissioned  projects,  such  as  IBM's 
Christmas  exhibit  in  New  York,  Peace  on  Earth,  Good  Will 
to  Men. 

During  the  1960s  and  early  '70s,  Corita ' s  friendship 
and  esteem  for  Philip  and  Daniel  Berrigan,  Joseph  Pintauro, 
and  Gerald  Huckaby  led  to  her  collaboration  on  several  of 
their  publications.   Through  her  art,  she  echoed — and 
supported — their  socially  and  politically  conscious  state- 
ments.  The  civil  rights  movement  and  the  Vietnam  war 
were  already  stimulating  the  awareness  of  the  Immaculate 
Heart  community.   This  perception  was  instilled  into  the 
students'  sensibilities  and  challenged  them  to  speculate 
broad,  catholic  themes  and  statements  in  their  discussions, 
and  to  incorporate  them  in  their  works.   Such  enlightenment 
within  the  community  supported  Corita 's  artistic  statements, 
though  they  were  frequently  criticized  by  many  others 
as  too  radical. 

The  I.H.M.  community  never  levied  any  kind  of 
restrictions  on  Sister  Corita ' s  artistic  endeavors;  and 
in  1968,  her  quest  for  individualism  (which  until  then 


had  only  asserted  itself  through  her  art)  surfaced  in 
her  decision  to  leave  the  religious  community.   Her 
separation  immediately  preceded  the  community's  decision 
to  establish  its  own  decrees  of  renewal;  and  in  1968, 
she  retired  from  teaching  to  devote  full-time  attention 
to  her  work. 

Corita  has  executed  many  commercial  commissions, 
and  she  has  made  prints  for  Container  Corporation,  Reynolds 
Aluminum,  and  International  Graphic  Arts  Society.   For 
the  1964  New  York  World's  Fair,  she  designed  the  Beatitude 
Wall,  a  forty-foot  mural  for  the  Vatican  Pavilion. 

Corita 's  works  are  in  permanent  collections  at 
several  museums,  including  the  Victoria  and  Albert  Museum 
in  London,  the  Art  Institute  of  Chicago,  the  Museum  of 
Modern  Art,  the  National  Gallery  of  Art,  and  the  Biblio- 
theque  Nationale  in  Paris.   Among  her  better-known 
public  works  are  the  150-foot  rainbow  for  the  Boston 
Gas  Company's  natural  gas  tank  overlooking  Dorchester 
Bay,  a  twenty-foot  mural  for  the  Bon  Secour  Hospital 
in  Methoun,  Massachusetts,  and  her  series  of  prints 
published  in  various  national  magazines. 

She  has  been  named  to  the  "Top  Nine  Women  of  the 
Year"  by  the  Los  Angeles  Times,  and  was  recognized  in 
Harper ' s  Bazaar ' s  special  edition  of  "American  Women  of 
Accomplishment. " 

Miss  Kent  resides  in  Boston,  where  she  works  on 
commissioned  projects  and  designs  prints  for  distribution 
to  the  twenty-six  galleries  which  represent  her  across 
the  country. 

In  the  following  pages,  which  consist  of  a  verbatim 
transcript  of  tape-recorded  interviews  made  with  the 
UCLA  Oral  History  Program,  Corita  Kent  recalls  her 
experiences  as  an  artist  and  reflects  on  her  years  as  an 
instructor  at  Immaculate  Heart  College.   This  interview 
is  part  of  a  project,  "Los  Angeles  Art  Community:   Group 
Portrait,"  funded  through  a  grant  from  the  National 
Endowment  for  the  Humanities. 

Rebecca  Andrade 



INTERVIEWER:   Bernard  Galm,  Director,  UCLA  Oral 
History  Program.   BA,  English,  St.  John's 
University,  Collegeville,  Minnesota.   Fulbright 
Scholar,  1957-58,  Free  University,  Berlin,  Germany. 
Graduate  Study  at  Yale  School  of  Drama  and  UCLA 
Department  of  Theater  Arts. 


Place;   Home  of  Mary  Kent  Downey,  10847  Morrison 
Street,  North  Hollywood,  and  Corita  Kent's  gallery, 
5126  Vineland  Avenue,  North  Hollywood  [video  session] 

Dates:   April  6,  13,  20  [video  session],  1976. 

Time  of  day,  length  of  sessions ,  and  total  number 
of  recording  hours :   The  sessions  took  place  in  the 
early  afternoon  and  averaged  two  hours  in  length. 
Approximately  four  hours  were  recorded. 

Persons  present:   Corita  Kent  and  Galm.   Mary  Downey 
and  Gladys  Collins  participated  in  the  video  session; 
Nancy  Olexo  and  Francine  Breslin  were  present  to 
operate  video  equipment. 


In  preparation,  the  interviewer  studied  biographical 
material  supplied  by  the  Corita  Kent  gallery  in 
North  Hollywood.   He  also  viewed  the  gallery's  large 
collection  of  her  prints  and  other  works  and  spoke 
with  her  sister,  Mary  Downey,  and  Gladys  Collins, 
who  together  operate  the  gallery;  they  offered 
personal  recollections  of  Corita  and  suggested 
possible  questions  for  the  interview. 

The  interviewer  pursued  a  full  biographical  study 
within  a  chronological  framework,  beginning  with  a 
discussion  of  her  family  background,  childhood,  and 
education,  then  a  discussion  of  her  vocation  as  a 
nun  and  her  companion  career  as  artist  and  teacher 
at  Immaculate  Heart  College.   In  the  video  session 
she  was  asked  to  comment  on  individual  art  works 
and  speak  about  her  decision  to  leave  the  Immaculate 
Heart  community  and  how  her  subsequent  life  has 



Editing  was  done  by  Lawrence  Weschler,  Assistant 
Editor,  Oral  History  Program.   He  checked  the 
verbatim  transcript  of  the  interview  against  the 
original  tape  recordings  and  edited  for  punctuation, 
paragraphing,  correct  spelling,  and  verification  of 
proper  and  place  names.   The  final  manuscript 
remains  in  the  same  order  as  the  original  taped 
material.   Words  and  phrases  inserted  by  the  editor 
have  been  bracketed. 

Corita  Kent  reviewed  and  approved  the  edited  tran- 
script.  She  made  minor  corrections  and  supplied 
spellings  of  names  not  previously  verified. 

Lawrence  Weschler  prepared  the  index  and  other 

front  matter.   Rebecca  Andrade,  Oral  History  Program, 

wrote  the  introduction. 


The  original  tape  recordings,  including  the  video 
tape,  and  the  edited  transcript  of  the  interview 
are  in  the  University  Archives  and  are  available 
under  the  regulations  governing  the  use  of  non- 
current  records  of  the  University. 

Records  relating  to  the  interview  are  in  the  office 
of  the  UCLA  Oral  History  Program. 


APRIL  6,  1976 

GALM:   Miss  Kent,  we  usually  start  these  interviews  by 

getting  some  important  facts  such  as  when  you  were  born, 

and  where  you  were  born. 

CORITA:   Um-hmm.   I  was  born  in  Fort  Dodge,  Iowa,  in  1918. 

GALM:   What  was  the  month  and  day? 

CORITA:   November  20. 

GALM:   And  I  know  from  my  research  that  the  family  didn't 

spend  much  time  there. 

CORITA:   No,  we  left,  I  think,  when  I  was  about  eighteen 

months,  and  we  moved  to  Vancouver.   We  stayed  there  for  maybe 

a  couple  of  years,  because  when  we  then  moved  to  Los  Angeles, 

I  was  not  yet  ready  for  school.   So  I  remember  that  I  must 

have  been  by  that  time  maybe  four  or  five. 

GALM:   What  had  your  father  been  doing  in  Fort  Dodge? 

CORITA:   He  was  working  with  my  mother's  father  in--what  was 

their  business?   My  grandfather  had  a  farm,  but  he  also  had 

another  business,  but  I  can't  think  what  it  was.   And  then 

another  brother  came  in,  and  there  wasn't  enough  space  for 

both  of  them.   So  then  my  father  joined  his  brother,  who 

had  a  restaurant  in  Vancouver,   And  that's  why  we  moved  there 

— it  was  for  his  work. 

GALM:   Had  the  Kents  settled  in  Iowa? 

CORITA:   Yes,  my  grandmother  and  grandfather — these  were  the 

Sanders,  now — my  mother's  mother  and  father  had  the  farm. 
And  the  Kents  had  lived  in  Minnesota--Minneapolis .   And 
how  they  got  together  I  don't  know.   [laughter]   Missed 
that  part  of  the  history.   We're  terrible  about  the  history 
of  our  family. 

GALM:   Are  those  English  or  Irish? 
CORITA:   Irish,  yes. 
GALM:   On  both  sides? 

CORITA:   No,  my  father,  his  parents  were  both  born  in 
Ireland.   And  my  mother's  father  was  born  in  Holland,  and 
my  grandmother  was  French-Canadian--and  then  previous  to  that, 
the  family  was  in  Chartres,  that  side  of  the  family. 
GALM:   How  many  family  members  preceded  you?   How  many 

CORITA:   We  were  six,  and  I  was  the  fifth. 
GALM:   So  then  the  family  settled  in  Vancouver,  and  your 
father  would  have  worked  in  the  restaurant  business  for  a 
while.   What  brought  him  to  Hollywood? 

CORITA:   I  don't  know  what  brought  him  to  Hollywood,  except 
that  I  remember  we  came  on  a  boat.   [laughter]   Ship,  I 
guess,  in  those  days.   But  we  came--it  was  probably,  again, 
a  matter  of  work.   But  I  don't  remember  what  changed  to 
bring  him  down  here.   But  meanwhile,  my  mother's  parents  had 
moved  out  here.   My  grandfather  must  have  been  a  very  enter- 
prising man  in  those  days,  being  that  age,  and  had  bought 

property  in  Hollywood.   He  had,  oh,  several  units,  which  he 
rented.   And  then  we  lived  in  one  of  those.   And  after  my 
grandfather  and  grandmother  died,  my  mother  managed  that 
until — really,  until  she  died. 
GALM:   Where  was  that  located? 
CORITA:   It  was  6616  De  Longpre  Avenue. 
GALM:   Right  in  the  heart  of  Hollywood. 

CORITA:   Right  in  Hollywood,  yes.  Vie    used  to  ...  .   At 
that  time  there  was  a  vacant  lot  where  there  are  now  build- 
ings, and  across  the  street  was  this  De  Longpre  Park,  which 
used  to  be  called  something  else.   But  I  think  it's  now 
back  to  De  Longpre.   It's  just  one--like  a  half  a  block. 
And  there  was  moviemaking  going  on  there,  I  remember,  from 
time  to  time.   So  we  were  that  close  to  Hollywood.   That 
was  about  it. 

GALM:   So  then  when  it  was  time  to  go  to  school,  where  did 
you  go? 

CORITA:   I  went  to  school  about  three  or  four  blocks  away, 
at  the  Catholic  elementary  school.  Blessed  Sacrament 
[School] ,  which  is  on  Sunset,  and  I  went  there  for  nine 
years.   At  that  time  they  had  a  junior  high  system.   And 
then  I  went  to  Catholic  Girls  High,  which  is  now  called 
Conaty  High,  on  Pico  street,  which  was  a  school  for  girls 
taught  by  different  communities  of  nuns.   And  when  I  finished 
high  school,  I  went  that  summer  to  Otis  Art  Institute,  and 

then  the  following  September  [1936],  I  entered  the  community 

at  Immaculate  Heart. 

GALM:   How  did  you  decide  to  go  to  Otis  during  the  summer? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  had  always  been  interested  in  art,  since 

the  time  I  was  really  a  young  kid. 

GALM:   How  young  a  kid? 

CORITA:   Let's  see,  how  young  a  kid?   I  can  remember 

always  making  things,  like  designing  things,  paper  dolls 

and  their  clothes,  and  then  drawing.   And  I  had  a  couple 

of  nuns,  especially  one — in  the  sixth  grade,  I  think--who 

at  that  time  was  taking  courses  herself  at  UCLA  and  took 

quite  an  interest  in  my  talent;  and  she  gave  me  the  classes 

that  she  was  getting.   So  it  was  really  great  fun.   This  was 

after  school  on  a  private  basis,  and  I  think  that  was  the 

real  beginning  of  that  kind  of  encouragement.   My  parents — 

my  father  especially  had  always  been  very  encouraging.   But 

both  my  parents  were  always  encouraging.   I  took  it  very 

lightly;  I  didn't  think  of  it  as  being  anything  too  much. 

But  I  was  always  interested.   I  did  the  posters  in  school 

and  all  that. 

GALM:   What  form  did  this  encouragement  from  your  father 


CORITA:   Well,  it  was  interesting  because  outside  of  that 

one  nun.  Sister  Noemi--who  was  really,  I  think,  on  to  a  more 

stable  grasp  of  the  field--most  of  the  training  I  had  was 

really  very  bad.   I  took  art  in  high  school,  and  we  had 
this  dear  old  nun  who  would  let  us  copy  things.   We  got  to 
choose  what  we  were  to  copy,  and  that  was  the  extent  of 
freedom  there.   [laughter]   I  missed  the  first  year  because 
I  came  in  as  a  sophomore,  but  I  think  the  first  year  we 
could  choose  anything  from  the  drawer  that  had  pencil 
drawings,  and  copy  from  that.   And  we  would  enlarge  them. 
The  second  year  was  charcoal,  and  the  third  year  was  pen- 
and-ink.   And  the  fourth  year,  which  I  never  got  to,  was 
oil  painting.   [laughter]   So  it  was  very  ....   And  I 
remember  my  f ather--getting  back  to  that  question--always 
saying,  "Why  don't  you  do  something  original?"   And  it  just 
never  occurred  to  me.   I  think  as  a  younger  child  I  did 
things  out  of  my  head.   But  then  I  got  into  this  kind  of 
training,  and  I  thought  that  that's  the  way  to  ...  .   I 
found  in  later  years,  though  certainly  it  was  balanced  from 
a  lot  of  other  things,  that  it  was  not  a  bad  thing  to  have 
as  a  kind  of  discipline  and  control,  in  a  sense.   In  a  lot 
of  other  ways  it  was  terribly  harmful  because--certainly  it's 
not  the  way  I  would  go  about  teaching  art  to  young  people. 
GALM:   Did  your  father  have  some  of  the  artist  in  him? 
CORITA:   Very  much  so,  and  I  think  it  never  got  a  chance  to 
be  developed  because — well,  I  think  he  was  probably  meant 
to  be  a  poet.   He  could  play  the  piano;  he  was  just  a  really 
fun  guy.   And  he  was  burdened,  I  think,  by  six  kids.   And 

my  mother,  too,  I  think  was  really  probably  meant  to  be 
more  a  person  of  my  kind  of  life,  who  had  a  chance  to 
develop  her  own  thing.   So  they  were  both,  I  think,  people 
who  were  saddled  with  six  kids  at  a  time  when  Catholics 
had  lots  of  kids--and  I  guess  Catholics  still  do.   [laughter] 
GALM:   If  they're  good  Catholics. 

CORITA:   And  so  my  father,  I  think,  really  would  have  loved 
to,  was  really  gifted  in  his  own  right,  and  probably 
instinctively  saw  that  in  me  as  something  he  didn't  have  a 
chance  to  develop,  and  he  meant  to  see,  or  was  hoping,  that 
I  would.   But  he  died  when  he  was  fifty-six,  so  he  really 
didn't  have  much  chance  to  see  what  happened--except  I  think 
he  sees  it  from  another  space.   [laughter] 
GALM:   Was  there  any  art  in  the  home? 

CORITA:   No,  the  usual  reproductions,  you  know,  that  .... 
GALM:   It  would  have  been  more  religious  art? 
CORITA:   No,  not  necessarily.   I  can  remember — and  I  should 
be  able  to  say  the  artist — that  kind  of  grand  nineteenth- 
century  picture  of  the  three  horses'  heads.   You  probably 
have  seen  it. 

GALM:   Nothing  comes  to  mind. 

CORITA:   Well,  that,  I  remember,  was  in  my  parents'  bedroom. 
Then  there  were  a  lot  of  my  own  things  always  framed  around 
the  house  that  I  had  done  on  my  own  in  high  school. 
GALM:   Did  you  sense  in  later  years  that  the  poster  work 

that  you'd  done  was  really  the  beginning  of  the  later  work? 
CORITA:   Never  thought  of  it  until  you  just  said  so.   Uh-huh. 
No.   But  the  first  time  I  used  words  in  a  picture  was 
probably  back  in  the  early  fifties.   I  began  very  soon  after, 
when  I  began  my  prints.   I  began  printing  in  1951,  and  it 
was  in  those  early  prints  that  they  did  have  words  in.   And 
I  remember  we  had  this  very  remarkable  professor  come  to 
teach  for  us  who  had  come  from  Germany  with  the  general 
exodus  in  Hitler  years.   He  had  been  the  director  of  painting 
at  the  Berlin  museum,  I  think,  and  was  just  a--oh,  one  of 
the  greatest  men  I've  ever  known.   Besides  being  a  very  good 
art  historian,  he  had  fathered  many  of  the  group,  like 
[Paul]  Klee  and  [Vasili]  Kandinski,  had  arranged  for  some  of 
their  first  one-man  shows  and  that  sort  of  thing,  was  a 
good  friend  of  [Lyonel]  Feininger  (they  were  very  close 
friends  up  until  the  end) .   And  I  think  he  was  the  one  who 
first — I  always  count  him  and  Charles  Eames  as  the  people 
who  educated  me.   Even  going  through  school,  the  teachers 
I  had  were — many  of  them  were  probably  splendid,  but  those 
were  the  men  who  really  had,  I  think,  the  ability  to  pass 
on  concepts,  and  not  so  much  a  string  of  facts. 
GALM:   Was  that  Mr.  Laporte? 

CORITA:   No,  this  is  Dr.  [Alois]  Schardt,  who  preceded  him. 
GALM:   And  he  came  out  of  Berlin? 
CORITA:   Paul  Laporte  also  came  from  Germany.   There  was 

just  I  think  a  year  in  between  when  we  lost  Dr.  Schardt 

and  found  Dr.  Laporte. 

GALM:   Where  did  he  go  from  Immaculate  Heart? 

CORITA:   Dr.  Schardt? 

GALM:   Yes. 

CORITA:   He  died. 

GALM:   Oh,  he  died. 

CORITA:   Yes,  in  Christmas  of — '56  comes  to  me,  but  I 

wouldn't  be  terribly  sure  of  that  date. 

GALM:   Did  he  come  directly  then  from  Berlin,  or  at  least 

from  Europe,  to  Immaculate  Heart? 

CORITA:   No,  I  think  he  must  have  been  around  for  a  while 

before  we  found  him.   And  at  that  time,  he  was  also  teaching 

courses  at  USC  and  Claremont.   But  he  was  a  great  combination 

of  a  real  mystic,  if  I've  ever  known  one,  and  a  genuine 

historian.   And  he  just  had  a  remarkable  sense  of  drama  as 

a  teacher.   He  really  hated  teaching;  he  just  dreaded  it. 

Monday  morning:   "This  is  no  way  to  begin  a  week,"  as  he 

always  said,  and  I  think  felt  especially  cursed  with  teaching 

young  kids,  because  their  education  in  his  eyes  was  just  so 

abysmal.   [laughter]   He  would  talk  about  things  that  they 

had  never  heard  of.   They  just  didn't  know  stories  from  the 

Bible  when  he  was  trying  to  just  tell  the  content  of  a 

picture,  and  he  just  couldn't  believe  what  they  didn't  know. 

GALM:   Did  he  think  that  American  education  was  to  blame,  or 

was  it  ...  ? 

CORITA:   Oh,  I'm  sure  he  did,  yes. 

GALM:   Do  you  think  of  any  other  stories  that  might  illumin- 
ate his  personality  or  his  mystical  quality? 
CORITA:   Well,  there  was  one  marvelous  scene  I  have  in  my 
mind.   At  that  time  at  school,  we  were  making  banners  and 
getting  people  to  bring  us  all  their  junk  jewelry  and  old 
beads  and  buttons  and  things,  and  we  had  a  great  box  of  them. 
And  I  remember  walking  into  the  room  once,  where  this  box 
was.   The  light  was  not  on,  so  it  was  in  darkness,  and  here 
was  Dr.  Schardt.   He  was  a  large  man,  with  white  hair,  and 
with  great  presence.   And  here  he  was,  bending  over  this  box, 
picking  up  pieces  of  jewelry.   And  he  said,  "I  have  a  tree 
at  home" — I  don't  know  what  he  called  it,  the  tree  of  wonder 
or  the  tree  of  delights  or  something  like  that — and  he  said, 
"I'm  looking  for  pieces  to  hang  on  it."   And  this  was  a 
branch,  a  big  branch  with  many  little  branches.   But  he  had 
that  kind  of  quality  that  really  had  reached  the  simplicity 
that  you  read  about,  that  you  would  like  to  reach — you 
know,  the  simplicity  of  a  child.   And  then  I  remember  once 
when  Mortimer  Adler  came  to  school  to  speak  to  the  students, 
I  was  sitting  next  to  Dr.  Schardt.   And  at  one  point  he 
pulled  a  piece  of  paper  and  pencil  out  of  his  pocket  and 
started,  and  I  thought,  "Well,  this  is  sort  of  the  supreme 
honor  to  Adler,  to  have  Dr.  Schardt  take  down  something  he 

said."   [laughter]   I  didn't  really  notice  what  he  was 
doing,  but  pretty  soon  he  handed  me  this  piece  of  paper, 
and  it  was  a  drawing,  a  beautifully  simple  drawing  of  a 
rose,  open,  looking  full  into  it.   And  he  said  to  me,  "This 
is  the  mystical  rose.   This  is  going  to  be  my  design  when 
I  make  my  banner."   [laughter] 

GALM:   So  he  wasn't  even  listening  to  Adler  at  all. 
CORITA:   And  then  the  next  day,  the  next  class  we  had,  this 
very  bright  young  nun  came  in.   She  was  all  agog  from  Adler 's 
talk,  so  she  said  to  Dr.  Schardt,  "Wasn't  he  marvelous?" 
And  Dr.  Schardt  said,  "Well,  he  is  a  bright  young  man,"  or 
something  to  that  effect.   The  young  nun  thought  he  hadn't 
really  understood  what  Adler  had  said,  so  she  began  to  tell 
him  what  his  talk  was  about,  to  explain  it  to  him.   It  was 
a  marvelous  thing.   [laughter] 

But  it  seems  to  me  that  at  the  same  time — back  into  the 
room  where  he  was  choosing  the  jewelry — Charles  Eames  had 
come,  dropped  in  for  something.   He  had  just  come  home  from 
an  exchange  program  between  Germany  and  the  United  States. 
The  German  artists  were  to  come  here  and  bring  something 
of  America  home  to  Germany,  and  vice  versa.   And  Charles  had 
chosen  to  do  the  two  churches--you  may  have  seen  his  film 
called  Two  Baroque  Churches  [in  Germany] ;  one  is  Vierzen- 
Heiligen  and  the  other  is  Ottobeuren,  Franciscan  and  Benedic- 
tine baroque  churches--because  he  thought  that  was  a  marvelous 


example  to  young  architects  of  real  enthusiasm  that  flowered 
into  work,  instead  of  just  kind  of  heady  stuff  onto  the 
drawing  board  adapted  from  somebody  else's  something.   So  he 
was  fresh  home  from  Germany,  and  he  was  describing  these 
churches,  which  were  of  course  very  familiar  to  Dr.  Schardt 
— the  great  drama  of  the  architects.   I  think  it  was  Vierzen- 
Heiligen  where  the  approach  is  extremely  simple  farmland; 
and  this  is  the  way  the  film  begins,  showing  the  patterns 
of  the  earth  and  the  growing  green  things.   So  that's 
rather  plain  and  flat.   And  then  the  facade  of  the  church 
is  quite  classical  and  simple,  and  then  you  open  the  door — 
and  Charles  is  describing  this — and  then  you  open  the 
door,  and  there's  this  great  burst  of,  I  don't  know,  like 
theater  or  something.   And  they  both  said  at  once,  "And 
this  was  no  accident!"   [laughter]   This  was  real  planning. 
And  it  was  so  marvelous  to  see  the  two  of  them  together, 
because  of  course  Charles  was  much  younger,  and  Dr.  Schardt 
so  seldom,  I  think,  met  a  person  who  was  kind  of  equal  to 
him.   He  was  always  the  sort  of  great-grandfather  of  it  all. 
GALM:   Well,  you  mentioned  that  you  were  picking  up  concepts 
from  him.   What  concepts? 

CORITA:   I  think  the  main  thing  I  got  from  him  was  the  sort 
of  the  notion  that  change  is  the  constant  in  art,  and  that 
each  period  really  came  out  of  the  blood  and  bones  and  life 
of  that  time  and  couldn't  be  any  other.   He  often  took  a 


subject  matter  and  would  trace  it  back  through  the  periods 
and  show  how  the  same  subject  matter  would  be  treated  in 
completely  different  manners  by  different  ages,  and  the 
difference  between  Northern  and  Southern  Europe,  how  they 
expressed  things.   So  you  got  a  sense  that  .  .  .  because, 
as  I  say,  my  knowledge  was  very  ...  I  think  I  was  in  the 
middle  of  my  college  education  at  that  time.   I  had  gone 
through  Immaculate  Heart  in  kind  of  a  fast  way,  while  I  was 
teaching.   I  would  take  courses  at  night  and  on  Saturdays, 
and  it  was  sort  of  squashed  in  between  the  teaching  and  what 
you  had  to  have  ready  for  the  next  day.   And  so  then  when  I 
went  to  Victoria,  B.C.,  it  wasn't  until  I  think  in  the  late 
forties  that  I  came  home  from  Canada  and  then  finished  my 
M.A.  at  use.   But  it  was  during  those  years  that  I  was  part 
going  to  school  and  part  teaching  that  I  used  to — in  fact, 
I  think  for  almost  all  of  Dr.  Schardt's  classes,  I  showed 
slides  for  him  because  I  wanted  to  be  there.   I  could  do 
it  and  hear  him  at  the  same  time.   But  you  didn't  want  to 
miss  anything  he  said. 

GALM:   Had  your  own  art  developed  at  that  point?   I  mean, 
could  you  see  his  influence  upon  your  art,  or  ...  ? 
CORITA:   No,  not  really,  except  that  I  had  an  exhibit  which 
I  remember  he  came  to,  and  he  pointed  to  one  of  the  pictures, 
one  of  the  very  early  ones  [Benedictio] — well,  this  was  a  very 
early-on  exhibit — that  had  words  in  it.   And  he  said,  "Ah, 


that  is  very  good."   And  that  from  him  was  really  fantastic, 
[laughter]  because  he  really  didn't  ever  say  anything  much 
about  anything  that  was  around.   He  said,  "I  think  you  have 
done  something  very  special"--or  words  to  that  ef f ect--"with 
the  words,  the  word  and  the  other  forms."   That  didn't 
strike  me--I  mean,  I  didn't  then  start  doing  words  and  form 
together  because  he  said  that.   But  a  number  of  years  later, 
that  came  back  to  me,  and  I  thought,  huh,  you  know,  I  went 
ahead  and  sort  of  developed  that  way.   And  how  much  that 
small  word  of  praise  was  unconsciously  influential,  I  don't 

GALM:   What  did  words  mean  to  you  as  a  child?   Did  they  have 
special  meaning? 

CORITA:   Yes,  I  always  loved  to  read.   I  just  was  a  great 

GALM:   I'm  trying  to  picture  Hollywood  at  the  time,  whether 
it  was  as  billboard-crazy  as  it  is  today  or  not. 
CORITA:   No,  no,  I  think,  especially  our  little  neighborhood. 
It  was  kind  of  a  simple  little  neighborhood,  almost  like  this, 
and  there  really  were  no  billboards,  say,  between  home  and 
school,  [laughter]  or  between  home  and  Holly-.  ...   Of 
course,  Hollywood  Boulevard  was  a  very  familiar  stretch  to 
me.   It  wasn't  quite  as  junky  as  it  is  now,  but  pretty  much 
so.   It  was  never  very  great  architecture.   [laughter]   But 
I  don't  think  the  billboards  or  magazines — probably  before 


the  picture  magazines,  certainly  ....   But  as  you  say, 
the  fact  that  I  had  really — I  think  I  always  loved  printing. 
In  fact,  I  remember  a  friend  in  high  school--we  used  to 
have  kind  of  friendly  rivalry  going  on  together,  and  I 
remember  she  said  to  me  on  one  occasion,  "You  can  print, 
but  I  can  draw."   [laughter]   So  even  my  drawing  ability 
wasn't  quite  up  to  snuff — or  she  thought  so. 

GALM:   Did  you  have  any  calligraphy  in  high  school,  or  would 
that  come  later? 

CORITA:   No,  I  really  developed  the — I  mean,  the  posters  I 
just  did  without  very  much,  if  any,  help  from  anybody. 
The  actual  calligraphy  came — well,  there  was  a  time  when 
I  met  Martin  Oberstein,  who  is  a  calligrapher ,  and  he  gave 
me  a  lesson.   He'd  dropped  into  the  school  for  something  and 
showed  me  how  to  use  broad-edged  pen.   So  from  then  on  I 
was  on  my  own  and  learned  how  to  do  that,  and  then  I  taught 
it.   But  then  finally,  I  suppose  from  seeing  posters  and 
reproductions  of  posters,  I  got  ideas  of  there  being  differ- 
ent possibilities  of  using  letter  forms.   And  I  always  think 
of  the  letter  forms  as  much  objects  as  people  or  flowers  or 
other  subject  matter.   I  don't  think  of  them  as  anything 
different.   I  think  a  picture  with  all  words  is  as  much  a 
picture  as  something  with  abstract  shapes  or  recognizable 
shapes.   I  think  it's  all  a  matter  of  the  spacing  and  the 
kind  of  totality  of  the  picture  that  either  looks  good  or 


doesn't  look  good. 

GALM:  When  you  were  doing  these  posters  as  a  child,  did 
you  always  like  to  hand-letter  them,  rather  than  using  a 
form  or  cut-out  letters? 

CORITA:   I  think  I  always  hand-lettered  them  because  that 
was  the  only  way  available  to  me,  and  I  probably  hadn't 
thought  of  any  other  way  of  doing  it.   I  would  illustrate 
them  from  time  to  time,  too,  so  it  wasn't  just  printing. 
GALM:   Why  don't  we  pick  up  with  the  chronology?   At  what 
point  did  you  decide  that  you  wanted  to  become  a  nun? 
CORITA:   That  was  just  after  high  school. 
GALM:   So  it  wasn't  something  that  was  always  .  .  .  ? 
CORITA:   Yes,  in  fact,  my  very  closest  friend  was  just 
utterly  shocked  when  I  told  her,  during  the  summer  after  we 
graduated,  that  I  was  going  to  enter  this  community.   So 
it  was  a  well-guarded  secret.   I  don't  remember  keeping  it 
a  secret,  but  I  guess  I  just  didn't  talk  about  it.   And  she 
said,  "When  did  you  make  up  your  mind?"   And  I  said,  "I 
don't  know.   I  think  I  just  always  have  wanted  to  be." 
GALM:   Had  anyone  preceded  you  into  the  order  at  that  point? 
CORITA:   Yes,  it  was  a  typical  Catholic  family.   I  had  an 
older  brother  [Mark]  who  was  a  priest  and  an  older  sister 
[Sister  Ruth]  who  had  entered  that  same  community.   These 
were  the  nuns  who  taught  me  in  grammar  school. 
GALM:   How  much  older  is  the  older  sister? 


CORITA:   Let's  see,  I'm  going  to  be  fifty-seven  this  year, 

and  she  must  be  sixty-four. 

GALM:   So  having  religious  in  the  family  was  sort  of  a 

common  thing,  growing  up? 

CORITA:   Oh,  yes,  and  I'm  sure  my  parents  had  the  general 

idea  that  this  was  a  great  thing  to  be. 

GALM:   In  one  interview  or  article,  it  mentioned  that  you 

had  wanted  to  become  a  missionary  sister.   Is  that  accurate? 

CORITA:   No — you  can't  really  believe  all  these  things. 


GALM:   Well,  that's  why  I  asked — I  thought  we  would  at 

X6u5'C   •   •   •   • 

CORITA:   In  fact,  I  remember  the  community  opened  a  house 
in  British  Columbia,  in  which  half  of  the  nuns  taught  regular 
Canadian  children  in  the  elementary  school  in  the  city,  and 
the  other  half  taught  on  an  Indian  reservation.   Everybody 
was  just  dying  to  go,  and  I  wasn't.   I  thought  there  must  be 
something  wrong  with  me  because  I  hadn't  the  slightest 
desire  to  go.   And  then  during  that  first  year  that  that 
mission  had  opened,  one  of  the  sisters  up  there  became  ill, 
and  I  was  sent  up  to  replace  her.   All  through  that  whole 
period  of  my  younger  days  in  religious  life,  whenever  I  was 
changed  from  one  house  to  another  house,  I  just  really  hated 
to  leave  where  I  was;  and  then  when  I  got  to  the  new  place, 
I  hated  to  leave  that.   But  so  I  did  teach  in  Canada.   I 


taught  at  the  Indian  school  for  about — let's  see,  I  was 
up  there  three  and  a  half  years,  and  I  think  I  taught  a 
year  and  a  half  there,  and  the  rest  of  the  time  at  the 
Canadian  school. 

GALM:   When  you  decided  to  enter  the  sisterhood,  had  you 
seen  yourself  as  becoming  an  elementary  teacher? 
CORITA:   No,  in  fact,  it's  always  very  humorous  to  me  when 
I  look  back  because  I  was  quite  sure  that  I  couldn't  teach. 
I  had  a  low  estimation  of  my  intelligence,  and  I  thought 
I  really  wouldn't  ever  be  able  to  teach.   And  yet,  that  was 
the  only  thing  these  nuns  did. 
GALM:   You  couldn't  even  be  a  cook-sister. 
CORITA:   No,  I  had  no  notion  of  being  a  cook-sister, 
[laughter]   I  mean,  I  was  very  young,  and  that  was  how 
unrealistic  I  was.   As  a  matter  of  fact,  I  began  teaching 
almost  as  soon  as  I  entered  because  I  somehow  was  always 
chosen  to  go  when  they  needed  a  replacement,  even  though 
I  hadn't  arrived  at  the  teaching  stage  yet  (because  in  the 
first  year,  year  and  a  half,  you  were  being  trained,  and 
you  didn't  teach  at  that  time  except  in  cases  of  extreme 
emergency) .   So  I  really  got  my  beginning  in  teaching  in  a 
very  rough  way  because  I  had  no  training  and  not  much 
education  at  that  time,  having  just  finished  high  school. 
GALM:   Did  that  make  it  better  or  worse? 
CORITA:   Both,  I  think.   [laughter]   Yes. 


GALM:   So  then  the  chronology  after  that:   Did  you  get  a 

degree  from  Immaculate  Heart? 

CORITA:   Yes,  I  got  my  B.A.  from  Immaculate  Heart.   And 

then  I  began  taking  courses.   I  took  courses  at  Chouinard, 

and  I  took  one  summer  at  Woodbury  and,  I  guess,  several  summers 

at  use,  and  then  I  went  to  Canada.   And  I  think  it  was  then 

about  '45  when  the  accreditors  came  to  the  college.   At 

that  time  there  was  just  one  full-time  member  of  the  art 

department,  and  the  other  people  were  coming  in  from  USC  and 

UCLA  to  teach  a  class  or  two.   And  the  accreditation  group 

said  that  there  would  have  to  be  at  least  two  permanent 

members.   So,  I  guess,  of  the  community,  I  was  the  one  who 

had  the  most  points  toward  a  degree  and  apparently  the  most 

talent,  so  then  I  was  sent  back  down.   I  taught  part  time 

at  the  college  and  finished  at  USC  whatever  units  I  needed 

to  complete  the  degree. 

GALM:   Why  were  you  sent,  or  why  did  you  select  USC? 

CORITA:   I  think  the  general  idea  was  that  Sister  Magdalen 

Mary,  who  was  the  sole  member  of  the  art  department,  had 

gotten  her  training  at  UCLA,  and  she  thought  it  would  be  a 

good  idea  to  have  a  difference,  if  there  was  a  difference 

between  the  two  schools. 

GALM:   Were  you  being  then  sort  of  trained  as  an  art 

historian,  or  as  a  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  got  my  degree  in  art  history,  but  mostly  I 


think  it  was  because  by  that  time,  we  really  didn't  respect 

any  art  teachers,  [laughter]  and  so  thought  that  the  art 

history  would  be  a  better  background,  and  that  I  could  take 

care  of  the  art — you  know,  what  do  you  call  them? — studio 

classes,  so  to  speak,  on  my  own.   But  there  were,  of  course, 

studio  classes.   I  mean,  I  did  take  studio  classes  along  with 

the  history  classes. 

GALM:   When  did  Sister  Magdalen  Mary  come  to  the  department? 

CORITA:   Goodness.   She  is  about  ten  years  older  than  I  am, 

and  she  was  probably  there — oh,  I  don't  really  know;  I'm 

just  making  a  rough  guess — maybe  from  five  to  ten  years 


GALM:   What  status  did  the  department  have  at  that  point? 

CORITA:   I  suppose  about  the  same  as  the  other  departments 

in  the  college.   I  think  it  was  young  and  struggling,  with 

some  good  teachers  coming  in  and  out,  and  Sister  Magdalen 

Mary  was  an  excellent  teacher.   But  always,  as  far  as  students 

were  concerned,  there  were  always  very  few  students.   In 

fact,  it  wasn't  really  till  the  last,  oh,  I'd  say,  ten 

years  that  we  began  to  get  art  majors  in  greater  quantity. 

It  was  always  rather  a  small  department  in  comparison  with 

the  other  departments. 

GALM:   What  would  you  do,  just  give  a  B.A.  with  a  major  in 


CORITA:   Um-hmm. 


GALM:   Had  Sister  Magdalen  Mary  been  handling  the  painting 

and  studio  classes,  too,  at  that  point?   Or  some  of  them? 

CORITA:   Yes,  and  supplemented  by  outside  visiting  professors 

from  UCLA  and  USC. 

GALM:   Again,  in  my  research  I'd  read  that  she  wasn't  an 

artist  herself. 

CORITA:   No.   Of  course,  she  painted  while  she  was  in  school, 

but  then  she  didn't  ever  really  get  started  doing  anything 

on  her  own  as  far  as  painting. 

GALM:   What  kind  of  teacher  was  she? 

CORITA:   She  was  a  marvelous  teacher;  she  really  was — a 

great  teacher.   In  fact,  I  think  she  taught  me  a  lot  of 

things  about  teaching.   We  used  to  spend  some  time,  Sundays 

usually,  and  pin  up  the  students'  work  from  our  different 

classes  and  just  talk  about  them;  and  I  think  those  were 

great  learning  experiences  for  both  of  us  and  sharpened  us 

from  both  sides. 

And  then,  let's  see,  she  and  I  went  to  Europe  for 
about  three  months  at  the  end  of  '59  and  beginning  of  '60. 
By  that  time  we  had  begun  the  folk  art  collection,  but  then 
we  just  added  tremendously  to  it.   She  was  a  just  a  fantastic 
businesswoman,  as  far  as  getting  good  bargains  and  finding 
good  things.   So  we  brought  home  just  literally  truckloads 
full  of  things,  and  that  was  the  great  bulk  of  the  collection, 
to  which  she  then  became  very  much  attached  and  interested 


in.   And  her  interest  gradually  went  in  that  direction,  I 
think  even  away  from  the  teaching.   And  then  I — let's  see, 
'68,  I  left  the  college  in  '68,  and  I'm  trying  to  work 
backward  to  think — I  was  probably  head  of  the  department 
about  maybe  five  years,  or  does  it  say  someplace  authorita- 
tively?  It  would  be  a  help.   [laughter] 

GALM:   I  think  you  were  head  of  the  department  for  about 
four  years. 

CORITA:   Four  years.   So  then  it  was  probably  about  in  '64 
that  Sister  Magdalen  Mary  decided  to  go  to  England  and  spend 
some  time  collecting  and  studying.   She  had  not  been  very 
well,  and  I  think  she  also  wanted  a  change.   So  at  that 
time,  I  was  just  the  obvious  next  one,  and  so  I  became  the 
head  of  the  department  until  the  time  I  left,  which  was  in 

GALM:   How  did  you  work  together  then  to  build  the  department 
from  what  it  had  been  to  what  it  became? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  we  were  both  demons  for  work,  and  I 
was  probably  a  little  worse.   I  used  to  give  very  outlandish 
assignments,  which  I  kind  of  gasp  at  now.   But,  well,  I 
figured  then,  and  think  perhaps  differently  now,  that  there 
were  people  of  different  interests  in  the  class,  and  that 
those  who  were  really  interested  would  be  challenged,  and 
wouldn't,  wouldn't  do  it  anyway;  and  so,  somehow  or  other, 
things  would  level  out. 


But  then,  I  think  it  was  in  '51,  because  that  was  the 
year  I  finished  at  SC — the  last  four  units  I  took  were 
optional,  and  I  could  take  anything  at  that  point  because 
I  didn't  need  anything  except  the  numbers,  so  I  took  a 
printmaking  class.   I  had  done  some  silk-screen  work  on  my 
own,  but  not  to  any  great  extent,  and  so  I  decided  to  just 
take  the  class  and  do  serigraphy  the  whole  time  for  those 
four  units.   And  I  always  got  teased  because  they  always 
called  it  my  class  at  home,  because  I  very  seldom  went  to 
class.   I  would  stay  home  and  work  and  then  go  in  and  show 
them  because  it  was  simpler  that  way.   And  during  that  course 
I  made  two  prints.   And  the  summer  following  that,  I  looked 
at  one  of  them,  and  it  was  really  so  bad  that  I  started 
adding  colors  on  top  of  it,  making  a  completely  new  print, 
which  is  that  print  hanging  over  there  called  The  Lord  Is 
With  Thee.   It  turned  into  a  completely  different  picture 
because  underneath  it  was  a  picture  of  the  Assumption,  with 
a  very,  as  I  remember  it,  a  kind  of  fashion-modelish  lady 
in  the  center.   It  was  a  very  unwhole  picture.   And  the 
reason  that  that's  kind  of  historic  for  me  in  a  way  is  that 
we  decided  to  enter  it  into  the  County  Museum  show  where 
they  had  a  show  of  prints,  paintings,  and  sculpture  in 
different  divisions.   And  it  won  the  first  prize  in  the 
print  division,  which  was  just  sort  of  overwhelming.   And 
then  that  year,  I  entered  it  into  a  number — it  won  the  first 


prize  at  the  Sacramento  State  Fair  and  a  number  of  other 
places . 

And  so  then  we  got  into  the  exhibition  work.   We  used 
to  send  the  students'  work  to  exhibitions  along  with  my  own 
things.   We  would  go  to  the  exhibit  and  then  get  to  know 
the  other  printmakers  and  trade  prints  with  them.   So  we 
began  a  print  collection  and  got  into  the  art  world,  so  to 
speak,  more  than  we  had  been  before.   And  then  yearly, 
around  Christmastime,  we  would  to  to  New  York,  by  way  of 
giving  lectures  along  the  way  to  pay  for  the  trip,  and  see 
what  in  those  days  ....   This  was  in  the  middle  fifties 
to  the  middle  sixties,  before  art  got  from  New  York  out  here 
so  fast,  or  before  Los  Angeles  was  the  kind  of  a  center  it 
is  now.   What  was  happening  in  New  York  was  a  number  of  years 
— at  least  a  couple,  maybe  one--ahead  of  Los  Angeles.   So 
we  would  go  to  see  what  was  going  on  at  the  Museum  of  Modern 
Art  and  the  galleries,  and  do  a  little  collecting,  and,  as 
I  said,  lecturing  at  different  universities  and  schools  as 
we  went  along  the  road. 

GALM:   Were  these  mainly  Catholic  schools  at  that  time? 
CORITA:   No,  not  necessarily,  not  necessarily.   It  was  where- 
ever  somebody  had  heard  about  us  and  wrote  and  asked.   So  I 
think  that  helped  extend  us  into  the  art  world. 

And  then  I  remember,  I  initiated  a  program,  which 
probably  extended  over  the  last  two,  maybe  three  years  that 


I  was  at  the  college.   We  called  it  our  Great  Men  series, 
which  of  course  we  wouldn't  call  it  today!   But  I  just 
invited  people  like  Charles  Eames  and  Peter  Yates  and,  oh, 
a  number  of  different  people.   We  had--who  was  the  great 
director  who  discovered  Marlene  Dietrich? 
GALM:   [Josef]  von  Sternberg. 

CORITA:   Von  Sternberg,  yes.   And  I  think  they  were  all 
partly  amused.   Buckminster  Fuller  was  another,  and  Virgil 
Thomson.   I  just  wrote  to  them  and  said,  "We  have  this 
program  of  great  men;  we  would  like  you  to  be  one  of  our 
great  men  and  come."   We  asked  them  not  to  prepare  a  talk 
but  just  to  come  and  tell  whatever  they  wanted  to  tell 
about  their  own  life,  how  they  had  gotten  to  where  they 
were,  and  then  to  answer  questions  from  the  students.   By 
this  time,  I  guess  Sister  Magdalen  Mary  had  left,  but  we 
had  always  felt  a  need  to  bring  outside  people  in.   For 
a  long  time  we  were  limited  to  a  faculty  of  three,  and  we 
thought  bringing  other  people  in  to  talk  and  lecture  would 
be  broadening  for  the  students.   And  then  we  had  the  students 
keep  their  Friday  afternoons  free  of  any  classes,  and  we 
went  on  field  trips  or  had  somebody  come  to  talk  to  the 
students.   We  did  that  for,  I  suppose,  the  last  ten  years 
I  was  there. 

GALM:   Now,  this  Great  Men  series  would  have  been  for  the 
entire  student  body? 


CORITA:   Well,  no.   We  wanted  to  keep  it  rather  small,  so 
we  had  the  art  majors,  and  we  would  give  like  two  invita- 
tions to  each  department,  so  that  they  could  send  members; 
and  of  course  anybody  from  the  faculty  was  always  free  to 
come.   So  it  was  a  little  bit  exclusive. 
GALM:   Yeah,  it  sounds  it.   [laughter] 

CORITA:   And  we  taped  those,  and  those  tapes  are  around  at 
the  college  someplace,  I'm  sure.   They  were  really  marvelous, 
marvelous  nights. 

GALM:   Who  taught  you  printmaking  at  USC?   Do  you  recall? 
CORITA:   Yes,  I  recall  him,  and  I'm  trying  to  think  of  his 
name.   He  later  went  to  New  York  to  teach,  and — [Michael] 
Andrews?   Andrews  comes,  and  I'm  not  sure.   I  have  a  terrible 

GALM:   Much  of  an  influence  on  you,  or  just  mainly  in 
teaching  techniques? 

CORITA:   No,  not  really.   In  fact  the  person  who  really 
taught  me  serigraphy  is  Mrs.  Martinez.   I  don't  know  if 
you're  familiar  with  Alfredo  Martinez,  who  was  one  of  the 
Mexican  muralists.   He  did  murals,  but  in  his  spare  moments 
he  would  do  silk-screen  prints,  and  he  did  them  on  newspaper, 
on  anything.   And  then  when  he  died,  his  widow  decided  that 
she  wanted  to  perpetuate  his  work.   So  she  went  to  one  of 
the  art  schools,  learned  the  technique,  and  reproduced  a 
number  of  his  paintings.   And  so  going  back,  I'm  not  sure 


if  he  did  silk-screen  work  himself  or  if  these  were  all 
his  wife's.   But  I  remember  before  I  had  taken  the  class 
at  SC,  I  had  a  silk-screen  kit,  and  I  wanted  to  teach  the 
students  how  to  do  this.   So  I  began  experimenting,  and  I 
did — in  fact,  my  first  work  was  a  little  card  with  callig- 
raphy on  it.   I  was  using  the  photographic  process  because 
that  was  the  process  described  in  this  little  kit,  and  I 
got  along  fine  through  the  developing  and  the  printing 
and  then  the  printing  on  the  silk  screen.   But  when  it  came 
to  the  removing  of  the  stencil  from  the  silk  screen,  I 
evidently  didn't  have  the  proper  solvent.   I  was  scrubbing 
away  one  day  at  this  screen,  trying  to  get  it  off  with 
different  things,  and  one  of  the  students  came  and  said, 
"I  know  a  lady  who  knows  how  to  do  silk-screen  work.   Would 
you  like  to  meet  her?"   And  I  said,  "Sure."   So  she  came 
over  and  in  an  afternoon  just  told  me  all  she  knew.   She 
showed  me  some  things,  and  that  was  really  all  you  needed 
to  know.   It's  a  very  simple  process.   And  from  then  on, 
with  experiment  and  with  just  doing  it,  I  think  I  learned 
the  rest.   But  I  don't  think  I  really  learned  anything  new 
at  SC.   It  was  just  a  time  to  be  able  to  make  prints. 
GALM:   And  to  get  your  degree. 

CORITA:   And  to  get  my  degree,  right.   Don  Goodall  was 
really  a  very  good  sport.   I'll  always  remember  him  kindly 
because  I  remember  looking  at  the  program — see,  I  hadn't  had 


an  art  major  as  an  undergraduate--looking  at  the  require- 
ments for  a  master's  and  thinking,  "My  God,  this  is  going 
to  take  me  six  years  or  so  to  fulfill  all  these  require- 
ments."  So  I  went  to  see  him,  and  I  told  him  what  I  had 
been  doing,  what  I  had  done.   And  he  checked  over  and  said, 
"Well,  you  don't  need  this,  and  you  don't  need  this,  and 
you  don't  need  this"--because  in  experience,  I  had  them,  and 
he  was  great  enough  to  recognize  that.   So  actually  it  was 
cut  down  considerably,  and  I  was  able  to  finish.   It 
only  took  me  eleven  years  to  get  my  master's  all  in  all. 

[laughter]   But  that  was  along  with  teaching  and  all;  it 
was  a  very  minor  issue  on  the  side. 
GALM:   Was  it  mainly  summer  work? 
CORITA:   Yes,  yes. 

GALM:   Was  there  anyone  during  that  period,  then,  as  a 
teacher,  who  you  recall  as  having  influence,  or  whose 
work  you  admired? 

CORITA:   No,  not  really.   I  think  what  influenced  me  much 
more  were  things  I  would  see  at  exhibits.   And  even  though 
we  had  some  professional  painters  with  names  at  USC ,  I 
don't  recall  their  ever  being  enough  to  my  taste  to  influence 
me.   Sort  of  went  through  it  to  get  the  degree. 
GALM:   In  New  York,  who  were  you  seeing  at  that  time? 
CORITA:   Well,  the  people  I  remember  were  people  like 

[Robert]  Motherwell,  [Adolph]  Gottlieb,  and  that  whole 


abstract  expressionist  school.   I  guess  that  was  at  its 
peak  when  we  began  our  exhibit-going.   I  think  that  I  kind 
of  played  back  and  forth,  but  I  always  come  back  to  that 
kind  of  thing.   I  think  I  feel  very  much  at  home  with  it, 
with  the  loose  forms  and  the  simplicity.   Mark  Rothko  was 
a  great  influence,  I  feel. 
GALM:   What  about  Ben  Shahn? 

CORITA:   And  Ben  Shahn,  yes--I  love  Ben  Shahn. 
GALM:   Did  you  eventually  then  meet  him? 

CORITA:   Yes.   At  that  time,  I  had  done  a  print  for  the 
International  Graphic  Arts  Society,  which  was  a  group  in 
New  York  organized  to  help  people  collect,  people  who 
wouldn't  know  how  or  wouldn't  go  to  museums.   They  would 
send  out  a  catalog,  and  they  would  commission  artists  to 
do  a  series  for  them  and  sell  them  at  a  lower  than  ordinary, 
lower  than  gallery  price.   So  I  had  done  one  or  two  commis- 
sions for  them,  and  Theodore  Gusten,  who  was  the  head  of 
that,  was  a  friend  of  Ben  Shahn ' s .   And  through  him  we  met 
him,  had  a  marvelous  afternoon. 


APRIL  6,  1976 

GALM:   You  were  talking  about  your  meeting,  your  wonderful 

afternoon,  with  Ben  Shahn. 

CORITA:   Yes,  I  remember  one  of  the  things  he  said  was 

that — I  think  it  was  the  first  or  second  time  we'd  been 

to  New  York,  and  he  said  he  so  envied  us,  seeing  New  York 

for  the  first  time  as  adults.   He'd  grown  up  there  and 

knew  it  all,  but  he  said  it  would  be  such  a  great  experience 

to  come  on  it  fresh,  as  an  adult. 

GALM:   How  old  were  you  at  about  that  time — thirty? 

CORITA:   I  would  have  been  probably  in  my  thirties,  maybe 


GALM:   Was  there  anything  to  follow  in  the  Los  Angeles 

art  scene  at  that  time? 

CORITA:   Not  really  much,  as  I  remember;  or,  again,  as  I 

say,  it  wasn't  exciting  to  us  because  we  would  see  things 

in  the  art  magazines  and  they  wouldn't  be  here,  so  we  would 

have  to  find  them  in  New  York.   But  I'm  not  sure.   I  think 

we  were  having  those  Friday  afternoons,  and  we  of  course 

always  found  good  shows  at  the  County  Museum  or  the  Pasadena 

Museum  or  galleries.   We  used  to  spend  a  lot  of  afternoons 

at  La  Cienega  when  that  got  organized  into  the  gallery 

district;  we'd  just  go  up  and  down. 

But  we  were  really  very  broad  in  the  sense  that  our 


interest  in  the  so-called  fine  arts.   We'd  consider  going 
to  the  beach  and  flying  kites  an  artistic  experience,  or 
watching  the  sun  set  with  some  kind  of  ceremony.   But  it 
didn't  matter  to  us  whether  it  was  a  shop  with  foreign 
imports  of  folk  things,  whether  they  were--it  didn't  have 
to  be  paintings. 

GALM:   You  mention  watching  a  sunset  with  ceremony.   When 
did  the  concept  of  ceremony  enter  your  life,  or  had  it 
always  been  a  part  of  your  life? 

CORITA:   Well,  the  school  had  always  had  a  day  in  May  which 
they  called  Mary's  Day,  and  it  was  a  very  dismal  affair. 
The  students  wore  their  caps  and  gowns,  and  they  would  each 
carry  a  calla  lily,  and  we  would  have  a  ceremony.   They'd 
go  up  and  put  the  calla  lily  in  a  vase  in  front  of  the 
statue  of  Our  Lady,  and  I'm  sure  they  must  have  had  Mass 
and  processions  and  said  the  rosary  and  sung  hymns.   And 
it  must  have  been  about  in  '62  or  '63  that  a  new  nun  had 
charge  of  it,  Helen  Kelley,  who  is  now  the  president  of 
the  college.   This  job  was  sort  of  handed  over  to  her  from 
somebody  else.   And  she  was  probably  the  last  person  in 
the  world  to  have  that — she  has  great  appreciation  for 
ceremony,  but  this  whole  thing  didn't  fit  with  her.   And 
I  can  remember  that  there  was  a  long  line  of  girls  in  the 
corridor,  and  they  were  supposed  to  go  someplace.   And  I 
guess  the  leader  was  kind  of  asleep,  and  Kelley  just  grabbed 


her  and  started  her  in  a  direction,  like  you  would  a  line 
of  little  kids.   Instead  of  just  thinking  how  to  say  it, 
she  thought  the  easiest  thing  to  do  would  be  just  to  get 
her  started  and  everybody  would  follow.   So  I  think  it  was 
over  a  meal  that  I  teased  her  and  said  how  hilarious  I 
thought  it  was,  and  she  said,  "How  would  you  like  the  art 
department  to  take  over  Mary's  Day?"   [laughter]   I  said, 

So  in  1964  was  the  first  big  one  we  did,  then.   And 
I  started  out  just  brainstorming  with  the  students.   I 
asked  if  they  had  a  day  that  they  could  do  anything  they 
wanted  with  some  kind  of  ceremony,  what  would  be  good  things 
to  do?   You  know  how  kids  can  come  up  with  marvelous  ideas. 
So  we  just  took  them  all  in  and  discussed  them  and  tried 
to  find  ones  that  were  possible,  and  we  put  together  some 
great  days.   And  those  have  been  all  documented  by  film-- 
or  most  of  them.   We  have  some  beautiful  films  on  them,  made 
by  Baylis  Glascock. 

But  before  that  time,  we  had  been  interested  in  a  lot 
of  objects  which  had  been  ceremonial  objects.   So  that  was 
always  there,  the  kind  of  folk  art  thing  again.   And  I'd 
always  been  fascinated  with  the  idea  that  a  lot  of  the 
Italian  professional  artists--!  may  be  wrong  historically, 
but  I  think  in  general  [I  am]  right — that  some  of  the  people 
like  da  Vinci  or  Michelangelo  were  in  charge  of  the  city's 


festivities  and  did  the  costumes  and  the  floats  and  what- 
ever they  had.   So  that  they  were  really  considered  an 

GALM:   Was  there  anything  locally  at  that  time  that  gave 
you  ideas  for  the  celebration  for  Mary's  Day? 
CORITA:   I  remember  this  psychologist  friend  who  wrote  and 
said  he  always  thought  that  I  had  preceded  and  initiated 
the  be-ins  and  the  happenings  that  came  after.   Now,  I 
don't  know,  historically,  whether  they  happened  first  or 
we  happened  first.   But  it  was  about  the  same  time. 
GAIiM:   But  in  other  words,  you  weren't,  in  a  sense,  copying 

CORITA:   No,  it  came  out  of  this  very  sterile  ceremony  that 
had  gone  on  for  many  years.   [laughter]   And  we  came  in  as 
good  amateurs  come  in,  with  the  idea  that  everything  was 
possible.   And  then  I  would  turn  all  my  classes  over  to 
that,  and  they  would  make  things  for  it,  for  the  rest  of 
the  school.   But  it  took  a  fantastic  amount  of  organization 
because  you  were  handling  500  or  600  people  who  really 
weren't--we  tried  to  get  them  in  on  the  preparation  as  much 
as  possible  by  inviting  people  from  different  departments 
to  come  and  discuss  with  us,  but  as  far  as  the  actual  labor 
was  concerned,  some  of  them  came,  but  they  had  their  own 
interests  and  didn't  have  all  that  time.   The  art  majors 
were  doing  it  for  credit,  and  so  they  had  to  do  it.   And 


then  we  had  adult  classes,  and  they  did  wonderful  things 
for  it,  too. 

GALM:   And  this  preceded  the  [Renaissance]  Pleasure  Faire, 
too,  didn't  it? 

CORITA:   Yes,  the  Renaissance  Faire,  yes. 

GALM:   Because  there  seems  to  be  a  bit  of  a  similar  spirit. 
CORITA:   Um-hmm,  yes. 

GALM:   A  spring  orgy,  I  guess.   [laughter] 

CORITA:   Right,  a  spring  orgy,  right,  yes.   Yes,  we  always 
centered  it  around — well,  I  think  there  were  several  parts 
to  it.   I  thought  the  assembling  was  very  important.   I 
remember  being  in  New  York  once,  on  our  way  home  from  Europe, 
I  think,  the  day  of  the  Chinese  New  Year,   And  somebody  got 
us  a  little  balcony  in  a  store  right  over  the  beginning  of 
it.   And  it  took  them--if  you've  ever  watched  them--about 
a  couple  of  hours  to  assemble.   They  were  setting  off  fire- 
crackers and  milling  around  and  talking  and  having  a  great 
time  before  the  actual  procession  with  the  dragon  got 
started.   And  I  thought,  "This  is  such  a  marvelous  concept, 
just  the  getting  together  informally  with  some  kind  of 
anticipation  of  what  was  to  come."   So  that  was  always  a 
very  important  part.   And  we  always  had  some  kind  of  a  move- 
ment--left  over  from  the  procession,  I  suppose — from  one 
part  of  the  campus  to  the  other,  and  then  always  a  meal, 
like  out  on  the  grass.   And  then  we  usually  ended  up  with 


Mass,  or  had  Mass  in  the  center,  and  tried  to  make  it  as 
special  as  we  could  within  the  confines  of  the  L.A.  laws, 

GALM:   Were  the  festivities  ever  the  object  of  criticism? 
CORITA:   Oh,  yes.   Every  year. 
GALM:   Oh,  every  year.   [laughter] 
CORITA:   Every  year,  yes. 
GALM:   You  could  anticipate  .... 

CORITA:   In  fact,  Helen  Kelley,  who  was  (and  still  is) 
president  of  the  college,  was  really  a  great  person  because 
she--well,  for  many  reasons,  but  also  because  she  would  take 
the  gaff.   But  we  got  it  from  inside,  too,  because  some  of 
the  older  nuns  just  felt  bad  that  we  weren't  saying  the 
rosary  and  weren't  doing  some  of  the  things  that  had  been  a 
part  of  it  and  just  saw  to  it  that  it  was  beautifully  done. 
And  we  would  try  always  to  do  things  that  wouldn't  cause 
criticism,  but — I  mean,  that  was  always  kind  of  in  the  back 
of  my  mind,  I'm  sure.   But  of  course,  anything  you  would  do 
would  cause  criticism  because  at  that  point  everything  we 
did  was  wrong.   [laughter]   We  couldn't  win  for  losing,  so 
we  might  as  well  have  a  good  time  doing  it. 
GALM:   What  form  would  the  criticism  take? 

CORITA:   Well,  the  cardinal's  office  would  call  the  president's 
office,  and  say,  you  know,  "We  hear  such  and  such  went  on." 
And  then  some  of  the  very  conservative  alumni  members  who 


came  were  very  upset  because  as  conservatives  are,  the 
first  little  sign  of  change  is  a  real  threat  to  them. 
GALM:   So  they  saw  it  as  perhaps  being  sacrilegious, 
or  ...  ? 

CORITA:   Yes,  and  different  from  what  it  had  been  in  their 
day,  I  think,  was  at  the  very  base  of  it:   that  it  wasn't 
their  college  anymore. 
GALM:   You'd  broken  with  tradition. 

CORITA:   Yes,  yes.   And  you  see,  we  had  a  very  different 
notion  of  tradition.   [laughter] 

GALM:   Well,  in  a  sense,  a  new  tradition  was  established. 
CORITA:   Well,  yes,  in  that  traditions  are  what  you  pass  on, 
but  in  the  passing  on,  one  would  hope  they  grow  and  not  stay 
the  same,  because  if  it  stays  the  same,  it's  dead.   This 
had  been  repeated  year  after  year  after  year.   We  would  try 
to  have  a  theme  each  year,  and  in  those  years  especially, 
I  think  there  was  so  much  happening  that  it  was  usually  a 
social  justice  theme  underlying  it.   Like  one  year  we 
really  did  a  big  bang-up  thing  with  billboards,  collecting 
all  the  billboards  we  could  find  with  food;  and  the  whole 
thing  had  to  do  with  being  aware  of  the  fact  that  much  of 
the  world  didn't  eat.   And  this  worked  into  the  program. 
So  in  preparation  for  that,  the  students  would  collect  gobs 
of  quotations.   I  remember  one  time  we  decided  to  do  a  lot 
with  flowers--!  think  every  class  embroidered  banners  with 


flowers--!  think  every  class  had  to  do  a  flower  banner  of 
some  find.   And  in  one  class,  I  assigned  each  person  to  do 
500  twelve-inch  squares  that  had  a  bouquet  of  flowers  on 
them.   And  they  could  do  it  any  way  they  wanted.   I  said 
they  could  contact  elementary-school  teachers  and  get  them 
to  have  their  whole  classes  do  one,  each  do  one;  and  so 
there  were  many,  many  ways.   They  could  do  them  in  multiple, 
do  a  print,  do  them  lots  of  ways.   So  then  we  pasted  these 
on  the  sides  of  cartons  that  size  and  used  them  as  huge, 
big  building  blocks,  just  stacked  them  up  in  great  piles 
behind  the  altar. 

GALM:   Did  you  get  that  building  block  idea  from  Charles 

CORITA:   We  did  indeed,  yes.   We  went  out  to  his  house  one 
time  on  a  field  trip.   He  had  had  his  grandchildren  visiting 
him,  and  to  entertain  them,  he  had  bought  them  100  cartons 
of  about  twelve  inches  square  and  made  marvelous  blocks. 
And  then  he  had  a  rope  hanging  from  the  ceiling  with  a  noose 
down  toward  the  floor,  and  you  could  put  your  feet  in  it  and 
swing,  pile  them  up,  and  knock  them  all  down.   But  when  we 
brought  this  class,  they  all  used  them  to  sit  on.   We  were 
doing  boxes  for  quite  a  while  after  that  in  different  ways. 
GALM:   Does  that  mean  your  IBM  exhibit  would  have  been  a 
different  use. 
CORITA:   Yes,  right,  exactly. 


GALM:   How  did  the  folk  art  collection  start  at  Immaculate 

CORITA:   I  don't  know.   I  think  we  always  had  the  idea  that 
the  students  should  be  surrounded  by  real  art.   And  we 
found  a  way  of  gathering  prints.   But  we  really  had 
practically  no  budget  at  that  time.   So  we  started  collecting 
very  simple  little  things,  like  Japanese  paper  things, 
objects  that  were  beautifully  made  and  were  part  of  some- 
body's tradition.   And  I  think  I  always  felt  more  kind  of 
in  tune — well,  I  think  I  always  sort  of  resented  the  division 
between  the  fine  and  the  folk  art,  thought  that  [the  folk 
arts]  were  just  as  fine,  and  the  fine  arts  just  as  folk. 
GALM:   Was  that  shared  by  both  of  you? 
CORITA:   Um-hmm. 

GALM:   Was  it  reinforced  then  by  Charles  Eames? 
CORITA:   Oh,  yes. 

GALM:   When  did  he  enter  the  picture? 

CORITA:   Let's  see,  it  must  have  been  quite  early  on, 
probably  around  the  early  fifties,  or  maybe  the  late  forties, 
because  I  know  I  was  teaching  the  kindergarten,  first, 
second,  and  third  grade  in  the  training  school.   We  had  a 
training  school  at  that  time  where  the  college  students  did 
their  practice  teaching.   They  were  very  small  classes;  I 
had  these  three  classes  in  one  room.   I  would  do  that  during 
the  daytime,  and  then  from  four  to  six,  I  guess,  I  taught 


college  classes.   One  of  them  was  interior  design.   And  I 
didn't  have  the  ghost  of  a  notion  what  to  do  in  a  class  of 
interior  design.   I'd  never  had  one;  when  I  did  have  one,  it 
didn't  really  help.   [laughter]   So  one  of  the  things  I 
thought  to  do  was  to  take  the  students  around  to  see  new 
homes  that  were  built  and,  if  possible,  to  try  to  get  the 
architect  to  be  there  to  talk  about  his  work.   So  I  remember 
having  seen  Charles's  house,  which  was  new  at  that  time — 
fairly  new;  I  think  it  was  built  in  '51  or  so.   I  had  seen 
it  in  Arts  and  Architecture,  and  we  had  met  John  Entenza, 
who  at  that  time  was  the  editor  of  Arts  and  Architecture. 
I  think  I  did  covers  for  him,  and  the  students  did  covers 
for  that  magazine  at  that  time.   So  I  think  I  might  have 
called  John  Entenza  and  asked  him  how  we  could  get  the 
students  into  that  house;  and  either  he  suggested  it  or  I 
thought  of  it  myself,  just  calling  Charles  and  asking  him 
if  I  could  bring  students  out.   And  he  said,  "Sure."   Life 
wasn't  so  hectic  for  him  in  those  days.   [laughter]   We 
were  really  lucky.   So  we  used  to  do  that  every  year,  and 
sometimes  twice  a  year. 

I  always  taught  a  class  in  the  summer  for  people  who 
were  going  to  teach.   That  was  really  one  of  my  joys 
because  I  thought  it  was  a  great  chance  to  get  into  the 
schools,  because  those  people  would  all  be  ordinary 
elementary-school  teachers.   I  thought  they  would  do  a  lot 


less  harm  if  they  had  been  through  a  good  course.   And 
really  it  turned  out  to  be  a  class,  as  so  many  of  the 
students  have  always  said,  a  class  in  how  to  teach.   Because 
I  would  just  throw  things  at  them  to  do  that  they  had 
never  done  before,  and  they  could  see  how  that  was  possible, 
rather  than  showing  you  how  to  do  everything. 
GALM:   You  mentioned  Eames — did  you  try  to  get  in  with 
[Richard]  Neutra  and  [Rudolph]  Schindler?   They  would  have 
still  been  around.   Did  you  make  any  effort  to  ...  ? 
CORITA:   Yes,  we  saw  Neutra  and  went  to  his  house.   And 
Schindler,  no.   We  may  have  gone  to  houses  he  built,  but 
I  don't  think  that  we  met  him. 

GALM:   So  the  relationship  with  Eames  was  mainly,  then, 
through  the  class.   Did  you  have  a  personal  relationship 
then,  too,  that  continued? 

CORITA:   Well,  he  was  one  of  our  Great  Men,  and  we  saw 
him  from  time  to  time.   I  think  I've  only  been  out  there 
to  the  house  socially  about,  maybe,  three  or  four  times, 
but  then  he  doesn't  do  much  of  that,  anyway;  and  I've 
been  to  the  studio  a  number  of  times.   Then  he  was  a  great 
help  to  us  in  just  sitting  around  and  talking  when  we  were 
thinking  of  building  a  college  at  Claremont.   He  agreed  to 
be  in  on  the  thinking  part  of  it  for  us.   So  by  that  time 
he  had  a  great  affection,  I  think,  for  what  the  art  depart- 
ment— because  that's  how  he  got  to  know  the  college--had 
done  and  was  very  enthusiastic  about  it. 


GALM:   Did  his  wife  always  sit  i n  on  these  meetings,  or  did 
he  operate  individually? 

CORITA:   Let's  see,  no.   When  he  came — he  used  to  come  by 
himself,  and  then  when  we  would  go  to  the  studio  or  the  home, 
Ray  would  always  be  there. 

GALM:   Okay.   Why  don't  we  go  back  to  your  work,  then, 
how  it  developed  from  this  first  one  in  the  corner  onward, 

CORITA:   Well,  as  I  say,  I  think  the  success  at  the  exhibi- 
tions gave  it  quite  an  impetus,  that  I  may  never  have  done 
anything  if  it  hadn't  been  for  that.   You  know,  I  may  have 
just  taught  also  and  not  done  work  on  my  own.   But  after 
that,  I  used  to  make  a  series  of  prints  each  year.   The 
only  time  for  it  really  was  between  summer  school  and  the 
beginning  of  fall  school.   So  in  the  beginning,  it  was  a 
couple  of  weeks,  and  I  would  make  one  or  two  prints.   And 
always,  two  or  three  of  the  nuns  would  come,  drop  in  and 
help,  and  that  got  to  be  a  great  growing  tradition.   Then 
the  students  sometimes  began  to  ask  if  they  could  come;  some 
of  the  adult  students  came.   I  had  one  man,  Hobart  Burnett, 
who  came  every  year;  he  was  really  the  great  solid  one  who 
was  always  there,  first  thing  in  the  morning,  to  take  down 
the  prints  that  had  dried.   And  then  we  got  this  little 
space  across  the  street  where  the  students  had  their  seri- 
graphy  class,  and  in  the  summer,  I  just  took  the  whole  room 


over.   And  I  would  have  up  to  maybe  eight  or  ten  people 
working,  helping  me.   A  marvelous  woman,  who  came  out  from 
New  York,  Eleanor  Carpenter,  who  was  a  grandmother,  had 
lived  on  a  farm  and  was  working  toward  her  degree  and  after 
that  taught  for  about  ten  years  in  New  York — she  would  stay 
after  summer  school  for  those  two  or  three  weeks  and  clean 
my  screens  and  mix  paint.   So  it  was  that  group  of  people, 
really,  who  made  the  quantity  possible,  because  I  never 
would  have  done  all  that  work  all  by  myself. 
GALM:   How  did  you  handle  the  first  products  of  your  work? 
Did  you  try  to  find  a  gallery? 

CORITA:   No.   Sister  Magdalen  Mary,  especially  in  the 
beginning,  was  much  more  what  you  might  call  a  manager. 
One  of  the  adults  offered  her  services,  and  she  would  mat 
things,  my  things  and  the  students'  things,  to  send  to 
exhibits.   And  then  we  got  requests  for  shows  or  sent  out 
feelers  for  shows.   And  a  lot  of  that  sending  out  and  making 
contact  was  done  by  Sister  Magdalen  Mary.   I  don't  think  I 
was  terribly  excited  about  doing  it.   I  was  really  much  more 
at  that  time  concerned  with  the  teaching,  and  this  was  very 
much  a  side  thing  always. 

And  then,  I  think  in  the  last  year  I  was  at  the  college, 
I  had  done  a  design--!  was  meanwhile  doing  a  lot  of  free- 
lance work  on  the  side,  designs  for  covers  for  people, 
magazines  and  inside  illustrations,  one  thing  and  another. 


invitations — and  I  did  a  design  for  the  annual  report  of 

a  hospital  up  north.   And  they  had  it  printed  by  silk-screen. 

It  was  such  a  beautiful  job  that  I  asked  them  who  did  it, 

and  I  got  in  touch  with  this  Harry  Hambly  in  Santa  Clara. 

That  year,  I  prepared  the  separations  and  sent  half  of  my 

prints  up  to  him  to  see  how  that  would  work  out.   And  then 

from  then  on,  he's  done  all  my  printing.   It's  just  been  a 

marvelous  relationship,  because  we've  always  been  far  away-- 

now  I'm  even  farther,  in  Boston--and  he  has  always  been  just 

directly  attuned  to  what  I  mean  when  I  say  something.   So  I 

can  send  him--I  usually  do  my  work  about  three  inches  square, 

sometimes--and  say,  "Enlarge  this  to  such  and  such  a  size, 

and  do  this  in  this  color,  and  this  is  this  color."   And  he 

always  either  understands  or  knows  enough  to  ask  questions. 

So  that  actually  now  it's  come  down  to  my  doing  the  design 

for  them--he  does  the  printing.   I  have  a  batch  coming  at 

the  end  of  the  month,  and  I'll  have  a  show. 

GALM:   Where  will  the  show  be,  here  or  in  Boston? 

CORITA:   At  the  gallery. 

GALM:   At  the  gallery.   At  that  point,  did  you  already 

know  that  you  might  be  leaving  your  working  situation? 

CORITA:   No,  no. 

GALM:   So  it  was  just  a  blessing  in  disguise. 

CORITA:   Right,  yes,  yes.   It  came  as  a  kind  of  inspiration, 

you  know,  that  somebody  could  do  this,  could  help,  you  know. 


because  among  all  my  helpers,  I  think  I  only  had  one,  one 

man,  who  came  who  could  really  pull  a  squeegee  across  the 

screen  and  do  a  perfect  print  every  time.   And  I  was  the 

other  one.   But  no  matter  what  size  or  shape  these  people 

were,  they  just  didn't  have  the  elbow  grease  that  I  had  or 

the  strength  in  their  arms  to  really--so  they  could  never 

do  the  printing  part.   They  did  the  cleaning  up  and  the 

hanging  and  all  that.   There's  a  lot  of  muscle  work  to  the 

whole  process. 

GALM:   Early  on,  you  decided  that  this  was  going  to  be  your 


CORITA:   I  don't  think  I  decided.   I  think  I  just  made 

prints,  and  the  next  year,  I  decided  to  make  prints  again. 

GALM:   So  it  just  happened  to  happen  year  after  year. 

CORITA:   Yes,  uh-huh.   And  it  got  to  be  sort  of  expected, 

in  a  way,  that  I  would  make  a  new  batch.   The  galleries  would 

expect  a  new  batch. 

GALM:   When  did  you  find  time  to  collect  the  quotations  and 

slogans  and  so  forth  that  became  a  part  of  them? 

CORITA:   Well,  of  course,  in  those  days,  I  was  surrounded 

by  very  literate  people.   That  community  had  some  of  the 

best  women  you  could  ever  meet,  and  these  were  all  people 

in  different  fields.   So  sometimes  people  would  point  things 

out  to  me  or  send  things  to  me.   And  I  was--and  I  still  am-- 

a  great  flipper,  you  know,  rather  than  a  reader:   flip 


through  a  book  and  come  across  good  things.   And  then 
sometimes  you  just  found--like  I  think  IBM  put  out  a  little 
magazine  that  I  got  for  a  time  that  would  have  a  page  of 
quotations,  and  sometimes  you'd  find  one  good  one  there. 
So  I  think  that  people  who  think  that  I'm  an  avid  reader — 
I  don't  read  quite  as  much  as  it  would  seem.   I've  seen 
the  quotation  someplace. 

GALM:   So  you  haven't  read  all  of  Rilke. 
CORITA:   Right,  right.   Almost.   Almost.   But  that  was 
after  I  used  him,  for  the  most  part. 

GALM:   So  the  first  ones  did  contain  some  figures.   How 
long  did  that  keep  up? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  I  was  very  much--not  disillusioned, 
but  I  was  not  very  pleased  with  what  was  happening  in 
figurative  art.   I  think  figurative  art  had  a  hard  time  and 
still  is  having  a  hard  time,  except  for  a  few  people  like 
Milton  Avery  and  maybe  Ben  Shahn,  people  like  that.   So  I 
think  I  went  back  to  medieval  things--and  of  course  that 
[print]  is  very  medieval--and  worked  from  those  sources 
because,  in  fact,  I  did  my  thesis  on  some  medieval  sculpture, 
It's  a  very  miserable  piece  of  scholarship,  but  the  sculp- 
ture was  good.   But  then,  as  I  started  getting  into  my  own, 
as  I  say,  being  very  much  influenced  by  abstract  expression- 
ism, I  found  it  much  more  my  thing  to  be  nonf igurative .   And 
now  I  feel  that  in  a  sense  the  prints  have  kind  of  a  mixed 


audience.   I  think  a  lot  of  people  like  them  for  what  they 
say,  and  I  always  thought  this  was  a  nice  thing  because  the 
people  would  then  be  attracted  to  the  form  and  gradually 
get  used  to  looking,  whereas  they  might  not  if  it  were  a 
picture  without  words.   I've  done  lots  of  pictures  without 
words.   But  I  think  it's  helpful  when  they  have  words. 
GALM:   You  also  stretch  their  imagination  as  far  as  the 
words  themselves  are  concerned,  as  far  as  seeing  them  and 
not  seeing  all  of  the  word. 
CORITA:   I  think  so,  yes.   Right. 
GALM:   And  reverse  image  and  .  .  . 
CORITA:   Right. 

GALM:   .  .  .  other  things.   And  that  wasn't  present  much  in 
the  early  work,  was  it? 

CORITA:   No,  no.   I  remember  once  that  I  was  taking  photo- 
graphs of  some  of  the  ....   For  one  of  these  Mary's  days, 
we  decided  to  cover  every  door  of  the  administration  building 
with  one  big  poster  that  was  the  size  of  a  door.   So  every 
student  made  about  five.   I  was  taking  photographs  of  them 
one  time  and  taking  sections  of  some  because  they  were 
very  beautiful.   One  of  them  was  curved,  as  I  was  taking  the 
slide,  and  I  thought,  "Oh,  that  would  be  a  nifty  idea."   So 
that  year,  I  think  almost  in  all  of  my  prints,  I  took 
pictures  from  magazines  and  combined  them  the  way  I  wanted, 
and  then  I  would  curl  the  paper  to  go  the  way  I  wanted  it  to 


and  shoot  the  photograph,  the  slide,  and  then  enlarge  that 
and  cut  the  stencil  from  that.   So  that's  where  all  the 
curly  ones  came  from. 

GALM:   Did  what  was  happening  in  "liturgical  art"  (quote- 
unquote)  at  the  time  have  any  influence  on  you? 
CORITA:   Yes,  I  think  that  in  the  early  days,  especially, 
I  was  trying  to  make  "religious  art"  (quote-unquote)  that 
would  be  not  quite  as  repulsive  as  what  was  around.   And 
then  pretty  soon  I  realized  that  anything  that  was  any  good 
had  a  religious  quality,  so  that  it  didn't  matter  whether 
it  had  that  kind  of  subject. 

GALM:   Was  there  anyone  doing  religious  art  at  that  time 
who  you  could  respect? 

CORITA:   I  think  at  that  time  mostly  what  was  being  done 
was  a  kind  of  resurrection  of  the  Byzantine  and  the  Gothic, 
the  strong  things,  and  strong  periods  from  the  past.   But 
I  always  laughed  because  I  think  my--well,  I  know  my  biggest 
rejection  was  from  a  liturgical  art  magazine  we  had.   I 
can't  think  of  the  man's  name,  who  is  now  dead.   Maurice 
Lavanoux.   I  had  agreed  to  make  a  serigraph  that  fit  in 
the  magazine  as  a  double-page  spread  so  that  each  person  who 
subscribed  to  the  magazine  would  get  an  original  serigraph. 
And  I  did  2,100  prints.   This  was  when  I  was  printing  by 
myself.   [laughter]   I  did  it  in  two  colors,  I  think.   So 
that  was  the  longest  job  I  ever  did.   And  we  sent  them  off 
to  him  and  didn't  hear  from  him.   So  after  a  long  time,  I 


wrote  and  said,  "Did  they  get  there?"   And  he  wrote  back, 
and  he  said  he  thought  that  it  was  a  little  too  much  ahead 
for  his  readers.   So  I  said,  "Send  them  back."   So  for 
years  afterwards  we  were  selling  them,  and  finally,  unbeliev- 
ably, they  became  rare. 

GALM:   Do  you  recall  what  the  design  was? 

CORITA:   Yes.   It  was  a  figure  of  Christ  and  a  figure  of  Our 
Lady,  with  words.   [Christ  and  Mary] 

GALM:   What  do  you  think  really  put  him  off  about  it? 
CORITA:   Well,  I  think  that  he  probably  had  to  play  a  safe 
line  to  keep  subscribers,  and  even  though  they  did  sort  of 
out  of  the  way  things  for  that  time,  I  guess  he  must  .... 
I  didn't  think  it  was;  I  mean,  it  seemed  very  tame  to  me. 
But  apparently  he  didn't  feel  that  his  readers  would  think  so. 
We  did  this  as  a  gift  for  him,  which  was  amazing.   [laughter] 
GALM:   When  you  did  start  receiving  some  recognition,  were 
you  ever  courted  by  the  same  people,  as  far  as  commissions 
or  anything  like  that  is  concerned? 

CORITA:   Well,  yes,  I  think  eventually.   I  suppose  the  top 
thing  in  that  regard  would  be  the  mural  I  did  for  the 
Vatican  Pavilion  [at  the  1964  New  York  World's  Fair].   But 
of  course  the  person  in  charge  of  that  section  of  the  Vatican 
Pavilion  was  Norman  Laliberte,  who  happened  to  be  a  friend 
and  thought  what  we  were  doing  was  great.   So  it  wasn't 
exactly  that  the  officials  in  the  church  chose,  or  anybody 


official.   That  kind  of  recognition  just  didn't  ever  come. 
GALM:   Is  any  of  your  work  in  churches  or  convents,  other 

than  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   Oh,  some  in  convents.   And  let's  see — I  did  one 
chapel,  which  we  did  the  complete  design  of,  in  Palm  Springs, 
which  has  since  been  sort  of  taken  apart  by  different  people 
who  came  along  and  thought  otherwise.   [laughter] 
GALM:   It's  been  dismantled? 

CORITA:   It's  been  dismantled.   And  I  think  I  did  a  series 
of  the  stations  of  the  cross  for  one  chapel,  which  were 
then  taken  down  the  next  year,  sold  to  another  chapel, 
which  ....   [laughter]   Those  were  hard  years  because  I 
think  even  the  general  public  was  still  very  much  adverse 
to  the  notion  of  what  they  called  modern  art,  you  know,  any- 
thing that  was  different  from  the  bad  copies  of  the  great 
masters  or  the  great  masters  themselves.   So  we  were  just 
part  of  the  crowd. 

GALM:   It  seems,  though,  that  there  would  be  more  of  an 
acceptance  in  the  late  sixties  and  .... 
CORITA:   Well,  of  course,  within  the  community,  it  was 
always  mixed.   And  I  always  laugh  because  in  my  own  family, 
it  was  divided  exactly  in  half,  you  know.   [laughter]   Let's 
see,  well,  it  couldn't  be  divided  exactly  in  half.   I  had 
my  sister  [Mary],  whose  home  we  are  in,  and  my  brother  [Mark] 
who  was  a  priest,  and  they  were  always  very  much  in  sympathy 


with  what  I  was  doing.   But  the  rest  of  the  family  thought 
I  was  out  of  my  mind.   [laughter]   But  they've  mellowed 
over  the  years. 

GALM:   What  is  it  that — it  was  just  too  far  out  for  them? 
CORITA:   Yes.   Well,  two  of  my  brothers  have  died  during 
this  last  year,  and  those  two  brothers  and  then  my  sister, 
who  is  a  religious--Sister  Ruth--were  very  conservative 
people.   In  fact,  you  might  say  that  one  brother  [Richard] 
and  sister  were  extremely  conservative,  in  many,  many  ways. 
And  then  the  other  half  of  the  family,  my  sister  and  myself 
and  my  brother  who  was  a  priest  (who  is  no  longer  a  priest) 
were  much  more  sort  of  into  what  was  changing.   And  my 
mother — I  used  to  bring  her  the  batch  of  prints  every  year 
when  I  finished  them,  to  show  her,  and  I  remember  the  last 
time  I  brought  them  to  her.   I  think  she  always  half-loved 
them  because  her  daughter  had  done  them,  so  she  was  much 
kindlier  toward  them  than  the  conservative  part  of  the 
family.   But  she  looked  at  them,  and  she  said,  "Don't  you 
think  you've  gone  a  little  too  far  this  time?"   [laughter] 
It's  just  marvelous.   And  then  I  said,  "Well,  which  are  your 
favorites?"   And  so  she  chose  two.   And  one  was  kind  of  a 
logical  choice:   it  was  a  beautiful  heart  with  a  crown  of 
thorns,  and  then  the  [Juan]  Jimenez  "Heart  of  the  City" 
wr'itten  over  it.   [The  Heart  of  the  City  print  is  actually 
based  on  a  poem  by  Miguel  de  Unamuno;  Jimenez's  poems 


appear  in  other  prints,  however,  such  as  Yellow  Spring. --Ed. ] 
But  the  other  was  what  I  called  Wonderbread,  for  which  I 
really  got  the  idea  from  the  Wonderbread  loaf  of  bread. 
There  were  just  twelve  circular  images,  different  colors. 
And  that  was  one  of  her  favorites,  which  I  thought  was 
quite  far  out,  as  they  say,  for  her,  who  thought  I  had 
gone  a  little  far  that  year. 

GALM:   How  much  did  your  students  influence  your  work? 
CORITA:   I  think  there  was  a  great  exchange  between  us. 
First  of  all,  we  saw  the  same  things,  because  we  usually 
went  to  exhibits  together.   And  then  I  think  there  was  a 
great  interchange  as  far  as  the  classwork  was  concerned, 
as  to  assignments  I  would  give  them  and  ways  they  would 
interpret  those  assignments.   I  think  we  probably,  from 
working  so  close  together,  had  a  very  similar  way  of  looking 
at  things  and  probably  similar  tastes.   I'm  sure  they  were-- 
well,  I  think  it  was  really  a  mutual  kind  of  influence, 
that  oftentimes  I  would  be  stimulated  by  something,  as  in 
the  case  of  that  banner,  which  was  quite  accidental:   I 
had  been  looking  at  a  student's  work  while  I  got  that  idea, 
but  it  was  really  the  photography  that  led  me  into  it. 
GALM:   Had  you  been  doing  photography  all  along,  too? 
CORITA:   Yes.   I  used  to  take  thousands  of  slides,  and  most 
of  our  lectures--I  guess  all  of  our  lectures--we  illustrated 
them  with  slides.   And  then  I  used  to  take  slides  for  Paul 


Laporte,  for  his  classes. 

GALM:   What  were  some  of  the  assignments  that  you  gave 
your  students? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  always  had,  or  developed  later,  I  guess, 
this  quantity  business,  with  the  notion  that  if  they  had 
to  do  a  lot  of  things,  they  would  just  dig  in,  figuring  that 
it  was  just  hopeless,  so  they  might  as  well  just  get  them 
done.   Whereas  I  think  sometimes  if  you're  faced  by  having 
to  do  a  single  thing,  you  have  great  expectations  of  your- 
self that  it's  got  to  be  great,  and  you  worry  over  it.   The 
other  way,  you  sort  of  get  a  lot  of  experience  without — 
and  you  get  quality  through  the  experience,  through  doing 
it  over  and  over  again.   For  example,  I  would  have  them 
take  a  piece  of  cardboard  with  a  hole  in  the  center,  a 
square  in  the  center  for  a  finder,  and  just  go  over  pages 
of  magazines,  and  when  they  found  something  they  liked,  a 
section  of  a  picture,  draw  a  line  around  it  and  cut  it  out. 
Well,  I  would  have  them  do  500  of  those  at  a  time,  and  some 
of  them  got  to  be  very  smart.   They  would  just  take  a 
magazine  and  the  paper  cutter  and  cut,  and  then  go  back  and 
sift  through  and  take  out  the  ones  they  liked.   [laughter] 
So  it  developed  this  marvelous  kind  of  inventiveness  to  get 
the  thing  done.   They  would  think  of  unbelievable  ways  of-- 
and  I  always  said,  if  you  can  get  somebody  to  do  it  for  you 
or  with  you  or  to  help  you,  fine.   And  in  that  way  it 


involved  other  students. 
GALM:   So  it  was  still  problem  solving. 

CORITA:   Yes,  right.   Exactly.   Which  is  what  I  think  it 
ought — it's  what  it  all  was.   And  I  think  I  always  tried  to 
do  things  that  would — see,  I  think  there's  a  creative 
aspect  to  art,  and  an  analytical  ....   [telephone  rings] 
GALM:   Do  you  want  to  take  that,  or  ...  ? 
CORITA:   No,  is  that  going  to  bother  your  .  .  .  ?   The 
creative  is  when  you're  putting  things  together,  and  the 
analytical  part  is  when  you're  taking  things  apart  and 
criticizing  and  observing — whereas  the  other  part,  you're 
in  it.   This  was  in  the  days  before  mass  meditation  groups, 
but  I  think  that  I  was  always  aware  of  that  difference  in 
consciousness,  of  when  you  were  criticizing  something  and 
when  you  were  making  something,  and  that  you  couldn't  do  the 
two  things  at  the  same  time,  and  that  often  people  tried 
to--especially ,  you  know,  nonprofessionals.   So  especially 
in  the  night  classes,  where  we  had  a  lot  of  people  who  had 
never  taken  art,  just  had  always  wanted  to,  and  real  folk 
artists,  and  some  of  them  marvelous — so  I  would  try  to  do 
things.   I  would  try  to  give  them  a  list  of  things  to  do, 
and  their  mind  would  get  so  busy  trying  to  fulfill  those 
that  the  thing  they  actually  did  would  be  done  freely 
because  they  wouldn't  be  so  worried  about  the  final  result. 
They  thought  all  these  other  things  were  important.   Like 


to  use  maybe  three  colors  and  have  it  a  particular  size  and 

a  lot  of  little  requirements  that  they  could  legitimately 

busy  that  part  of  themselves  with  [phone  rings]  while  their 

creativity  part  could  come  out  more  easily. 

GALM:   Where  were  you  getting  those  ideas  for  teaching, 

or  were  they  your  own? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  that  "necessity  is  the  mother  of 

invention"  sort  of  thing,  that  I  would  just — I  think  I 

always  had  a  horror  of  boring  classes  from  having  had  so 

many  boring  classes  myself.   And  so  I  would  try  to  do  things 

that  would  be  stimulating  and  exciting,  and  so  I  would  .  .  . 

When  it  stops  I'll  take  it  [the  phone]  off.   So  I  spent  a 

lot  of  time  in  preparation  for  classes,  [gathering]  materials 

that  were  not  necessarily  art  magazines  or  art  books,  but 

just  ....   I  think  I'm  naturally  intuitive,  and  ideas 

just  come. 

GALM:   Were  you  able  to  use  some  of  the  same  ideas  you 

used  for  your  elementary  school  teaching  that  you  did  later 


CORITA:   Toward  the  end.   But  I  think  by  the  time  I  got  into 

really  knowing  how  to  teach,  I  was  teaching  older  people, 

college  students,  and  adults.   I  often  regretted  the  way  I 

had  taught,  though  I  think  I  was  a  fun  teacher  in  a  way 

with  the  young  kids  because  I  enjoyed  them  so  much.   But  I 

would  have--I  think  I  would  have  been  much  more  challenging 


to  them  if  I  had  known  then  what  I  knew  later.   And  that's 
why  I  think  I  liked  that  class  that  was  a  requisite  for 
people  who  were  going  to  teach,  because  it  was  a  chance  to 
kind  of  undo  what  I  had  done.   [laughter] 
GALM:   Make  up  for  .... 

CORITA:   Yes.   And  could  see  the  possibilities  of  what  they 
could  do. 

GALM:   What  form  did  that  class  take,  as  far  as  handling 
the  students? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  would  give  them  many  of  the  same  problems  I 
would  give  to  the  art  students,  and  we  would  go  on  field  trips, 
and  I  would  try  to  make  it  as  much  as  possible  a  problem  class. 
I  thought  they  really  should  be  learning  something  about  art, 
as  far  as  tastes  and  recognition  and  so  forth,  because  it 
seemed  to  me  that  as  much  as  I  could  give  them,  they  would 
have  to  have  that  kind  of  appreciation  to  be  able  to  intelli- 
gently get  their  students  to  do  things.   And  I  must  say  that 
we  had  marvelous  equipment,  like  films.   We  had,  in  those  days, 
all  the  Eames  films;  and  those  are,  if  you've  seen  them,  I'm 
sure  ....   In  fact,  one  of  the  assignments  I  gave  them  was 
when  Charles  first  gave  us  the  India  film  on  the  exhibit  that 
Alexander  Girard  did  at  the  Museum  of  Modern  Art.   [Textiles 
and  Ornamental  Arts  of  India]   I  showed  them  the  film,  and  then 
afterwards  I  said,  "Now,  go  home  and  come  back  tomorrow 
with  200  questions  about  the  film."   [laughter]   And  it  was 


marvelous  because  any  of  these  things  are  ....   I  would 
have  them  look  at  things  for--like,  we  would  sit  around  in 
a  circle  and  each  have  a  Coke  bottle  and  look  at  it  for 
say  an  hour,  or  maybe  ten  minutes  sometimes,  depending. 
And  we  did  a  lot  of  looking  exercises.   And  you  find  that 
these  things  are  very  difficult  to  do.   The  first  ten  or 
twenty  questions  are  painful.   But  after  that  you  get  very 
slaphappy,  and  you  start  opening  up  and  expanding.   A  lot 
of  the  questions  were  worthless,  but  out  of  that  whole 
batch,  you  would  get  some  marvelous  things;  and,  again,  the 
whole  process,  I  think,  was  a  good  stretching  exercise. 
And  some  of  them--I  mean,  some  of  them  came  back  with  50 
questions,  and  maybe  two  people  out  of  the  class  did  200. 
But  even  that  was  fun. 

GALM:   They're  the  ones  that  couldn't  stay  awake  for  the 
class.   [laughter] 
CORITA:   Right,  right. 

GALM:   What  did  you  do  about  grading  them,  the  students? 
CORITA:   Well,  in  the  last  few  years,  that  was  the  last 
assignment,  to  grade  themselves  and  to  justify  the  grade. 
And  they  were  really  pretty  good.   I  very  seldom  had  to 
change  them.   Ordinarily  if  they  were  too  low,  they  would  be 
wrong,  or  seem  not  right  to  me.   And  I  used  to  tell  them  that 
I  thought  the  important  things  were  to  be  in  class  every 
day--not  because  I  thought  I  was  so  great  that  they  needed 


to  hear  me,  but  I  think  the  things  that  happened  when  we 
were  all  together,  the  discussions  and  what  have  you,  were 
the  way  they  really  grev\?,  and  that  they  couldn't  learn, 
they  couldn't  catch  up  if  they  weren't  there.   I'd  be 
furious  if  they  weren't  there  on  the  day  that  I  gave  an 
assignment,  or  on  the  first  day  of  class,  which  was  really 
a  big  bang-up  sort  of  orientation.   I  said,  "If  you've 
missed  the  first  class,  you  don't  know  what's  happening  in 
the  rest  of  the  class,  because  that's  the  only  day  I 
really  teach." 

GALM:   Was  the  adult  class  already  going  when  you  .  .  .  ? 
CORITA:   Um-hmm,  um-hmm,  yes.   But  in  those  days,  there 
would  be  about  six  people  in  the  class.   And  in  the  adult 
classes.   And  then  there  got  to  be  about  fifty  or  sixty  in 
the  class. 

GALM:   And  there  was  just  a  one-session  class. 
CORITA:   Yes,  once  a  week,  um-hmm.   And  at  night.   And 
Saturday  mornings  we  had  adult  classes,  too.   Those  were 
mostly  teachers,  people  working  for  their  degrees. 

But  I  remember  once  we  did  a--what  is  it?--the  NAEA. 
The  National  Art  Education  Association  had  its  meeting  in 
Los  Angeles,  and  we  were  asked  if  we  would  like  to  do  the 
commercial  exhibits.  All  the  people  who  had  commercial 
products  that  they  wanted  to  sell  to  schools  set  up  their 
exhibits.   And  you've  probably  been  to  some  of  those  exhibits 


--tables  with  green  felt  and  all  that — they're  really 
ghastly.   So  we  took  it  on,  and  I  think  it  was  at  the 
Statler  [Hotel]  downtown  when  it  was  in  its  first  year. 
And  we  took  over  some  huge  room,  and  I  assigned  each  student 
in  my  classes  to  ...  . 


APRIL  6,  1976  and  APRIL  13,  1976 

GALM:   You  were  talking  about  an  exhibit  that  your  students 
did  at  the  Statler  for  the  National  Education  .... 
CORITA:   National  Art  Education  Association.   Each  student 
was  responsible  for  getting  in  touch  with  the  manufacturer 
or  distributor--the  salesman,  I  guess--of  a  particular 
company — like,  say,  the  American  Crayon  Company — getting 
materials  from  them  and  getting  enough  things  made  out  of 
those  materials  that  we  could  cover  ....   We  got  these 
metal  sections  that  you  make  bookcases  out  of,  and  every- 
body used  those.   We  got  a  whole  batch  of  them,  and  they 
had  to  all  paint  them  white.   That  was  the  only  kind  of 
regulation  thing.   And  they  could  set  them  up  in  any  way 
they  wanted.   Their  job  was  to  sell  the  product  that  they 
were  in  charge  of.   We  had  two  companies  who  came  in  and 
changed  their  exhibit  back  to  the  old  thing,  but  that  was 
out  of  about,  oh,  eighty some  companies  that  we  were  working 
for.   And  that  was  a  fantastic  experience  that  we  probably 
never  would  have  gotten  into  if  we  had  realized  how  much 
work  it  was  going  to  be. 

GALM:   I'm  sure  that  must  have  happened  more  than  once, 
CORITA:   Yes,  exactly.   One  of  the  things  Charles  said  that 


always  stuck  with  me,  he  said  that  they  always  tried  to 

maintain  their  amateur  status,  because  an  amateur  was  a 

person  who  was  always  willing  to  do  something  because  he 

didn't  know  it  couldn't  be  done.   [laughter]   And  he  would 

do  it. 

GALM:   Does  this  then  predate  the — I  know  you  did  an 

exhibition  .... 

CORITA:   This  was  in  1957. 

GALM:   I  know  you  did  an  exhibition  of  banners  at  the  .  .  . 

CORITA:   .  .  .  National  Gallery  [in  Washington,  D.C.]. 

GALM:   Was  it  at  the  National  Gallery? 

CORITA:   Um-hmm,  yes.   We  had  done  the  banners.   In  fact, 

we  had  done  the  banners  before  the  celebration  days 

began,  because  I  think  I  had  gotten  the  idea  from  looking  at 

a  picture.   I  thought  it  would  be  a  super  project.   And 

everybody  thought  they  were  outrageous.   So  we  decided  that 

we  would  go  down  to  Watts,  to  the  [Watts]  Towers--you' re 

familiar  with  them.   And  in  those  days,  nobody  knew  where 

they  were,  even  in  Watts.   We'd  ask  somebody  on  the  next 

corner,  and  they  wouldn't  know.   We  had  a  kind  of  little 

procession  around  in  and  out  of  the  towers,  mostly  to  take 

pictures,  just  to  see  how  they  looked,  objectively.   And 

they  were  reproduced  in  Arts  and  Architecture,  some  of 

the  photographs.   And  Fritz  Gutheim,  who  was,  and  I  think 

still  is,  professionally  doing  exhibits  for  big  occasions. 


was  in  charge  of  the  AIA  [American  Institute  of  Architects] 

centennial,  which  was  to  be  in  the  National  Gallery  and 

was  to  consist  of  photographs.   And  he  thought  the  exhibit 

would  be  pretty  dull  and  that  the  banners  hung  with  them 

would  make  it  more  lively.   So  that  was  one  of  the  early-on 

things  that  got  the  people  in  the  community  impressed.   We 

always  thought  it  was  great  fun  if  we  could  impress  the 

people  in  the  community,  because  they  took  us  as  a  little 

offbeat,  as  I  say.   We  had  our  supporters,  but  most  of  the 

people  thought  we  were  a  little  bit  odd. 

GALM:   When  you  say,  "the  community,"  do  you  mean  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   The  sisters,  the  nuns. 

GALM:   The  religious  community. 

CORITA:   Yes.   And  this  surprised  us  no  end,  because  they 

were  so  impressed.   Everybody  was  so  impressed  that  we  had 

something  in  the  National  Gallery.   It's  just  marvelous 

how  people  make  their  judgments. 

GALM:   But  was  that  the  only  time  you  hung  banners,  did  a 

banner  exhibit? 

CORITA:   Oh,  no.   We  had  a  marvelous  banner  exhibit  at  the 

County  Museum. 

GALM:   At  Exhibition  Park. 

CORITA:   Yes. 

GALM:   Now,  were  those  banners  left  over  then  from  Mary's 

Day,  or  were  those  different  banners? 


CORITA:   Well,  for  a  number  of  years,  at  least  one  class  a 
year  I  would  have  make  banners.   We  were  always  rather 
brutal  in  those  days  because  we  said  that  anything  the 
students  did  really  belonged  to  the  college  if  the  college 
wanted  it.   We  collected  all  the  banners,  so  we  had  a 
great  accumulation  because  the  people  were  doing  them  for 
several  years,  so  that  on  the  big  days,  we  would  have  enough 
for  most  of  the  people  to  carry.   But  that  exhibition  was 
great  fun.   [Jim]  Elliott  was  the  one  who  got  us  to  do  it, 
asked  for  it.   It  was  in  the  rotunda.   And  I  had  this  idea 
--we  had  made  small  banners,  silk-screen  rectangles  about, 
oh,  maybe,  sixteen  inches  square,  and  I  had  the  idea  of 
their  hanging  horizontally  in  space,  way  above--you  know 
how  high  that  room  is.   And  then  I  think  the  other  banners 
were  hung  from  the  four  corners,  where  there  must  have  been 
something  to  attach  them  to.   So  we  got  four  poles  established 
on  the  floor,  and  strung  these  banners,  probably  about,  oh, 
maybe  sixty  or  seventy  of  these  sixteen-inch  squares.   From 
the  corner  of  each  one  to  the  four  poles  went  a  string.   So 
there  was  this  whole  maze  of  banners  that  were  beautifully 
spaced.   And  then  the  problem  was  to  get  the  whole  thing  up 
into  the  air,  which  we  did  by  taking  one  pole  up  and  fasten- 
ing it  to  a  light,  a  chandelier,  while  everybody  else  held 
the  other  parts  as  they  went  up.   It  was  beautiful.   But 
again  it  was  kind  of  an  impossible  thing.   And  that  was 


happening  during  summer  school:   summer  school  meant 

something  like  a  three-hour  class  in  the  morning  and  a 

three-hour  class  in  the  afternoon,  and  after  the  last  class, 

we  would  get  a  gang  and  go  down  there  and  work  on  it.   So 

we  were  crazy  in  a  way,  like  I  guess  all  enthusiastic 

people  are. 

GALM:   Here  again,  your  making  of  banners — do  you  think  that 

had  an  influence  on  a  popularity  for  banners  among  other 


CORITA:   I  think  it  could  have.   These  days  got  to  be  very 

well  known,  and  toward  the  end,  there  were  probably  about 

half  students  and  half  outsiders,  because  people  just  heard 

about  them,  and  they  wanted  to  bring  their  kids  to  them; 

they  just  wanted  to  come  and  be  a  part  of  it. 

GALM:   Because  I  know  banners  always  had  been,  of  course, 

a  part  of  religious  celebration  or  any  celebration. 

CORITA:   Any  celebration,  right. 

GALM:   But  there  was  a  period  there  in  the  sixties  in  which 

they  became  more  of  a  liturgical  expression,  too. 

CORITA:   Well,  yes.   I  think  the  banners  really  did  have  a 

great — well,  I  would  say  they  had  a  wide  influence,  not  a 

great  influence.   I  picked  up  a  little  Hallmark  [Cards,  Inc.] 

book  the  other  day--in  fact,  somebody  sent  it  to  me  because 

they  were  laughing  over  it--and  as  you  turn  page  after  page, 

it  looked  like  stuff  that  had  been  thrown  away  in  the  art 


department.   It  was  a  very  bad  copy  of  almost  everything 

we  had  ever  thought  of  doing.   And  I  think  with  the  banners, 

the  same  thing  has  happened.   People  have  started  making 

banners,  but  they're  dead.   They  have  a  kind  of  nonenthusiasm 

to  them. 

GALM:   Why  don't  we  stop  for  today  and  then  we'll  resume? 

CORITA:   Okay,  fine. 

APRIL  13,  1976 

GALM:   Before  we  continue  with  the  interview,  I  would  like 
to  clarify  something.   We  talked  last  time  about  two  banner 
shows,  one  at  the  National  Gallery  and  one  at  our  Los 
Angeles  County  Museum  of  Art  (and  at  that  time,  I  think  it 
was  in  Exposition  Park) .   Was  this  one  and  the  same  show? 
CORITA:   There  may  have  been  banners  that  were  repeated  in 
both  shows,  because  as  I  think  I  said,  we  collected  them 
from  the  students,  and  they  thought  of--I  think  they  were 
forewarned  that  they  were  doing  this  for  the  cause,  so  to 
speak,  and  that  other  people  could  use  them.   So  that 
some  of  them  may--no,  I  take  it  back,  because  it's  coming 
to  me  now  that  we  did  those  banners  especially  for  that 
Washington  show.   I  gave  the  students  the  theme  of  "House 
or  Home,"  and  they  were  to  do  some  research.   I  think  at 
that  point  we  did  mostly  biblical  research  and  just  found 
great  quotations  about  the  home  or  the  house  or  the  building. 


anything  to  do  with  that  area  that  we'd  hopefully  somehow 

tie  in  with  the  American  Institute  of  Architects  show,  which 

they  were  helping.   And  then  probably  some  of  those  banners, 

or  all  of  them,  were  used  in  the  Los  Angeles  County  Museum 


GALM:   Was  the  curator  at  the  museum  actually  just  bringing 

that  show  from  the  National  Gallery? 

CORITA:   No,  this  was  a  banner  show  we  did  for  the  County 

Museum,  and  had  no  relation  to  the  architects'  show. 

GALM:   Because  it  occurred  in  the  same  year.   [1958] 

CORITA:   Well,  it  could  have  been.   See,  my  memory  is  not 

terribly  efficient.   It  could  have  been;  it  was  certainly 

differently  arranged  because  we  had  the  arrangement  of  it 

here  in  Los  Angeles.   I  remember  in  the  National  Gallery 

they  were  hung  in  a  very  static  manner,  and  I  was  very 

shocked  when  I  saw  them  because  they  were  almost  hung  as 

other  pictures,  and  banners  are  meant  to  hang  freely. 

GALM:   In  other  words,  you  produced  the  banners  for  the 

Washington  show.   You  didn't  install  them. 

CORITA:   That's  right,  that's  right. 

GALM:   You  installed  them  very  definitely  at  the  County 


CORITA:   Yes,  yes.   And  we  had  the  great  help  of  Jim  Elliott, 

who  was  one  of  the  curators  there. 

GALM:   So  that  was  in  '58,  I  believe.   What  other  student 


exhibits--was  the  next  large  one,  then,  for  the  IBM 

CORITA:   We  sent  out  a  lot  of  student  shows  for  the  art 
department,  which  included  paintings,  ceramics,  some  ceramic 
sculpture,  prints,  and  so  forth.   And  then  I  think  I  mentioned 
the  NAEA  exhibit  we  did.   And  we  did  .... 
GALM:   "Survival  with  Style" — that  came  later. 
CORITA:   Yes.   "Survival  with  Style"  we  did  originally  for 
the  college,  and  that  travelled.   The  only  other  time  I 
saw  it  aside  from  our  own  use  of  it  was  when  Boston 
University  had  a  retrospective  of  my  work,  and  they  included 
that  as  part  of  the  teaching  work.   The  last  summer  I  was  at 
the  college,  in  1968,  I  did  an  exhibit  with  the  students 
for  the  World  Council  of  Churches  when  they  met  in  Uppsala 
[Sweden].   And  that  consisted  of  about,  oh,  sixty  to  seventy 
structures,  which  were  made  of  two  pieces  of  cardboard 
eight  feet  square  that  intersected  and  stood  like  you'd 
stand  two  cards,  slit  one  and  slide  the  other  one  into  it, 
so  they  were  at  right  angles  and  supported  themselves.   It 
was  John  Taylor,  who  is  the  head  of  film  and  communication 
for  the  World  Council,  who  got  us  to  do  that.   And  I  was  to 
go,  but  I  was  on  my  way  [out] ;  so  I  chose  a  very  remarkable 
student  we  had  [Donna  Villicich] ,  and  she  went  with  the 
exhibit  and  talked  to  the  people  and  to  the  press  and  so 
forth  about  it,  over  there.   And  they  had  made  a  film,  which 
I  have  seen,  in  which  Pete  Seeger  is  singing  and  the  young 


people  are  dancing  around  in  and  out  of  the  exhibit.   And 

they  opened  some  great  castle  in  Uppsala  that  was  used  as 

a  kind  of  museum  but  had  never  had  an  exhibit  in  it,  and 

they  filled  this  huge  hall  with  the  structures.   And  again, 

I  only  saw  photographs  of  that  exhibit,  but  they  really 

did  a  marvelous  job  of  setting  it  up. 

GALM:   Pete  Seeger  was  there  in  person? 

CORITA:   Yes. 

GALM:   Did  that  show  then  go  on  to  Geneva,  or  was  that 

still  yet  another  show  for  the  World  Council? 

CORITA:   I  had  a  show  at  the  World  Council  building  itself. 

GALM:   I  see,  in  1970. 

CORITA:   I  guess,  yes.   Was  it  in  1970? 

GALM:   That's  what  it  says. 

CORITA:   Yes,  yes,  it  was. 

GALM:   Were  parts  of  that  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   They  used  their  big  main  entry  place,  which  is  an 

exhibit  space,  for  that,  hanging  some  of  them  from  the 

ceiling;  and  it's  like  a  great — more  than  two  stories,  two 

extra  stories  high.   And  that  was  a  beautiful  exhibit. 

GALM:   Did  you  go  for  that  one  or  not? 

CORITA:   No.   My  sister  and  brother-in-law  were  in  Europe 

at  the  time,  and  they  were  there  in  time  to  see  it.   But 

for  that,  the  Franciscans,  the  people  who  do  the  "Hour  of 

St.  Francis"  and  those  commercials  that  you  may  have  seen. 


lent  us  their  television  studio  to  do  those  in.   They  weren't 
doing  anything  at  the  moment  in  the  studio,  so  we  had  it  for 
about — it  must  have  been  a  month  and  a  half.   Both  the  day 
students,  again,  and  the  night  students  worked  on  that;  so 
they  just  could  come  in  and  out  and  down  there  and  leave 
their  stuff  out.   So  you  can  imagine,  there  were — let's  see, 
I  think  each  person  had  to  do  four  complete  structures.   And 
it  was  again  probably  bigger  than  I  would  have  done,  if  I 
had  known  ahead  of  time  how  much  work  it  was  going  to  be. 
Some  of  the  students  fell  by  the  wayside,  and  others  profited 
by  it  immensely.   So  again  it  was  a  kind  of  mixed  blessing. 
GALM:   When  you  say  "wayside,"  they  actually  dropped  out, 
or  they  just  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   Right,  um-hmm,  or  finished  some  and  not  others. 
GALM:   Would  you  assign  a  general  theme? 
CORITA:   Well,  that  was  in  the  sixties,  and  there  was  a 
great  deal  of  social  consciousness  among  students  at  that 
time  anyway,  so  it  wasn't  difficult.   And  it  seemed  that 
it  largely  centered  around  poverty  and  justice,  injustice 
and  justice--however  you  want  to  put  it.   But  again,  the 
students  found  dozens  of  quotations  and  did  them  in  connec- 
tion with  visual  things. 

GALM:   You  mentioned  students'  social  consciousness. 
CORITA:   Well,  I  probably  urged  them.   [laughter] 
GALM:   When  was  your  social  consciousness  awakened?   I'm 


sure  it  was  always  there,  but  in  the  direction  of  your 

CORITA:   I  suppose  people  like  Dan  [Berrigan]  had  a  lot 
to  do  with  it  because  I  remember  he  was  the  first  one  I 
ever  heard  of  speaking  about  the  Vietnam  War.   And  this 
was  way  back  in  the  early  days.   I  had  hardly  caught  up  with 
him  in  relation  to  the  black  problem  and  poverty,  and 
suddenly  he  was  saying,  before  I  had  heard  anybody  else — 
or  I'm  sure  before  I  had  thought  of  it  myself — that  it  was 
wrong  for  us  to  be  at  war.   And  I  thought,  "How  can  he  say 
that?"   [laughter]   So  I  think  that  meeting  people  like  him, 
and  then  people  I  think  particularly  of  Mary  Jean  Pew,  who 
was  in  the  community  and  is  now  still  teaching  at  the 
college,  in  political  science.   She  was  in  charge  of  the 
sodality  which  was  in  charge  of  this  Mary's  Day,  which  the 
art  department  took  over  the  visual  aspect  of  it;  so  we 
worked  together.   And  I  think  living  with  people  who  were 
also  socially  conscious  helped  a  lot.   I'm  sure  if  I  had 
been  a  nice  proper  housewife,  I  would  not  have  bumped  into 
all  of  these  ideas.   And  of  course  once  they  get  into  you, 
you  start  noticing  and  expanding,  too. 

GALM:   Did  the  war  seem  to  stimulate  the  consciousness 
more  than,  say,  the  civil  rights  movement  had? 
CORITA:   No,  I  don't  think  so.   I  think  they  were  both  very 
real  issues  to  us.   Perhaps  more  in  the  community  than  among 


the  students:   I  think  it  really  originated  in  the  commun- 
ity and  then,  through  the  teachers,  filtered  into  the 

GALM:   Were  any  members  of  the  community  going  to  the  South 
in  those  years  and  marching? 

CORITA:   Yes,  I  think  somebody  went  to  Selma,  yes. 
GALM:   Off  the  tape,  I  was  asking  when  you  first  met  Dan 
Berrigan,  and  you  said  that  the  first  real  meaningful  contact 
had  been  during  a  summer  at  Montecito.   Could  you  describe 

CORITA:   Well,  it  was  extremely  informal.   We  would  cele- 
brate the  Eucharist  every  day.   And  Dan  is  so  magic  with 
words  that  they  just  pour  out  of  him  in  glorious  form. 
So  those  were  always  very  special  events  in  which  he  would 
tell  a  story  or  would  usually  have  maybe  a  kind  of  sermon. 
And  then  we  would  just  meet  to  talk  a  couple  of  times  a 
day.   And  again  it  was  largely  informal,  though  I'm  sure 
Dan  did  most  of  the  talking,  because  he  was  so  good  at  it. 
But  in  a  sense  he  doesn't  ever  take  over,  so  that  what  he 
says  is  probably  not  more  in  quantity  but  more  in  quality; 
and  I  remember  it  as  being  the  most  talking.   He  says  so 
many  things  by  not  saying  them  and  by  understatement,  which 
is,  of  course,  the  poet  in  him.   He's  going  to  teach  a 
course  this  summer  at  the  college. 
GALM:   What  is  the  course? 
CORITA:   It's  called  tentatively  "From  Poetry  to  Politics." 


GALM:   [laughter]   And  back  again  to  poetry. 
CORITA:   Back  again  to  poetry,  yes,  indeed.   Because  he's 
gotten  very  rauch--well,  he  did  a  book  [The  Raft  Is  Not  the 
Shore]  with  [Thich  Nhat]  Hanh,  the  head  of  the  Buddhist 
community  in  Paris.   He  was  a  very  good  friend  of  Thomas 
Merton's,  and  he  started  the  Thomas  Merton  Center  in  New 
York,  which  was  a  place  of  contemplation,  really.   So  I  think 
part  of  him  has  always  moved  in  the  direction  of  contemplation, 
without  disturbing  his  activities. 

GALM:   In  looking  through  your  prints,  I  don't  see  too  much 
Thomas  Merton.   Have  you  used  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   No,  I  don't  think  so.   I  think  I  read  Thomas  Merton — 
when  everybody  was  reading  Seven  Story  Mountain,  I  read  it. 
But  for  me — I'm  sure  I  would  feel  differently  if  I  knew  him, 
but  I've  heard  a  tape  of  his  recently,  and  it  really  just  turned 
me  off.   I  think  his  ideas  are  marvelous,  but  I  think  the  way  in 
which  he  states  the  ideas  are  still  enveloped  in  a  kind  of 
church  language,  which  is  ...  .   That's  unfair,  because  it's 
probably  more  of  a  classic  church  language  than  we  are  used  to 
hearing.   But  I  always  think  of  it  as  coming  largely  from  work- 
ing with  the  adult  classes,  who  were  mostly--certainly  most  of 
them  were  not  Catholics,  and  many  of  them  were  Jews  .... 
Most  of  them,  I  think,  were  Jews.   I  think  we  would  not  have  the 
arts  without  them.   But  I  think  in  working  with  those  people, 
I  was  always  very  conscious  of  trying  not  to  talk  in  a  way 


that  would  sound  proselytizing  to  them.   And  we  had  some 
rather  delicate  things  because  they  often  worked  on  these 
exhibits  and  projects  that  we  were  doing,  group  projects. 
So  that  the  themes  were  really  broad  enough,  certainly,  not 
to  be  called  Catholic  themes--but  I  wanted  that  to  be 
understood.   Of  course,  these  people  had  come  to  take  an 
art  course,  not  to  take  a  political  science  course  or  a 
social  awareness  course.   But  by  that  time,  I  didn't  know 
how  to  separate  the  two.   So  they  got  involved,  and  so  on. 
I  think  in  working  to  keep  it  being  an  art  course  and  an 
idea  course  that  I  got  accustomed  to  choose  statements  that 
would  be  understandable  by  everybody,  rather  than  by  just 
the  Catholic  community  or  a  church-affiliated  community. 
GALM:   You  said  that  you  learned  to  separate  the  two.   How 
did  you  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   No,  I  learned  that  I  couldn't  separate  the  two. 
GALM:   Oh,  that  you  couldn't  separate  the  two.   I  see. 
Because  I  was  curious  how  you  could.   [laughter] 
CORITA:   No,  I  couldn't. 

GALM:   In  describing  Dan  Berrigan,  you  had  mentioned  that 
he  was  a  pixie.   Why  "pixie"? 

CORITA:   Well,  when  he  speaks  he  has  a  kind  of  a--he  is 
small  and  slight,  and  he  has  a  kind  of  twinkling  Irish  way, 
and  he  never  comes  down  on  anything  heavily.   His  brother 
[Philip]  is  much  heavier.   But  Dan  always  says  things  with 
such  indirection  and  such  humor  that  you're  taken  a  little 


off  guard.   He's  always  asking  the  probing  question,  but 

he's  asking  it  in  a  kind  of  surprising  way,  rather  than 

coming  down  on  you  hard.   He  has  the  light  touch. 

GALM:   Did  you  ever  feel  the  need  to  be  out  in  the  front 

lines  with  him? 

CORITA:   No,  in  fact  I  think  I  really  had  no  guts  at  all, 

until  it  finally  occurred  to  me  that  I  really  had  my  own 

place.   But  certainly  Dan  never  felt  this.   He  felt  that 

what  I  was  doing  was — and  Phil  also,  which  surprised  me, 

felt  that  I  was  doing  great  things  for  whatever  movement 

was  going  on,  in  my  own  way.   So  then  I  figured  I  was  more 

comfortable  with  that  and  could  do  that.   I  couldn't  march 

and  be  in  the  public  that  way.   I  had  to  bring  it  into  the 

work  and  into  the  students'  work,  make  it  available  that 

way.   And  I  thought--again,  the  idea  that  using  words  with 

visual  forms  and  using  just  short  passages  is  often  a  way 

to  help  awaken  people  to  something  they  may  not  be  aware  of, 

rather  than  enclosing  it  in  a  book  or  making  a  speech  about 


GALM:   Let's  shift  back  over  to  the  IBM  exhibit  [1963]. 

How  did  you  get  that  invitation,  or  did  it  just  come  in  the 


CORITA:   No,  it  came  by  phone  call.   [laughter]   I  often 

remember,  because  that  exhibit  got  to  be  pretty  hard.   It 

was  at  the  time  when  the  students  were  just  beginning  to  be 


restive  about  being  given  assignments;  they  wanted  to  go  off 
and  do  things  on  their  own.   And  that  increased  after  that 
until — I  think  that's  where  we  had  so  much  difficulty  with 
the  exhibit  for  Uppsala,  because  that  was  again  a  group 
project,  and  some  of  the  students  were  just  finding  their 
own  individuality  and  didn't  want  to  be  involved  in  a  great 
big  group  project  that  was  really  under  my  name.   This 
really  disturbed  some  of  them,  and  it  disturbed  me,  too. 
But  there  wasn't  anything  I  could  do  about  it  because  that 
was  where  the  publicity  was;  so  we  just  had  to  take  that. 
But  the  IBM  exhibit  was  a  good  experience  for  me,  because 
I--I  think  I  was  always  very  good  at  getting  other  people 
to  work.   I  worked  very  hard  myself,  but  I  was  also  very 
good  in  sharing  responsibility,  even  though  I  had  to  have 
the  final  responsibility,  because  I  was  the  one  who  had 
accepted  to  do  the  thing.   So  for  the  IBM  exhibit,  I  chose 
two  seniors  (Michaela  Myers  and  Paula  McGowan)  to  be  in 
charge,  one  in  charge  of  one  half,  and  the  other  in  charge 
of  the  other  half.   They  were  really  in  charge  of  seeing 
that  the  students  were  doing  what  they  were  supposed  to  do; 
and  they  kept  track  of  the  supplies,  which  is  a  monumental 
task  with  that  kind  of  exhibit.   They  took  all  that  off  my 
hands.   It  was  very  good  experience  for  them.   And  then  IBM 
flew  them  to  New  York  to  put  the  exhibit  up.   And  then  I 
think  I  was  in  Washington--we  were  on  one  of  our  tours,  and 


I  guess  I'd  gone  to  Georgetown  to  speak,  so  I  was  in 
Georgetown--and  I  got  a  phone  call  during  my  own  exhibit 
from  one  of  the  student  leaders  who  was  setting  up  the 
exhibit,  saying  they  were  having  a  terrible  time.   I 
don't  know  if  you've  heard  the  history  of  this,  of  the 

CALM:   I've  heard  a  little  bit  about  it,  the  reaction  to  it. 
CORITA:   It  was  at  Christmastime,  and  we  did  it  with  boxes. 
We  had  one  whole  section,  which  was  probably  the  size  of 
that  wall,  composed  of  boxes,  which  when  they  all  fit 
together  said,  "Peace  on  Earth,  Good  Will  to  Men."   And 
when  that  got  up,  people  started  coming  in  off  the  streets. 
It  was  a  very — what  shall  I  say? — explosive  time.   Anyway, 
I  guess  people  looking  at  IBM  didn't  know  what  to  make  of 
this,  and  they  thought  it  was  kind  of  a  hippie  thing.   So 
they  came  in  and  questioned  the  IBM  people,  and  so  they  got 
them  to — what  did  they  ask  them  to  do?   Oh,  to  put  the 
scriptural  source  underneath  it.   [laughter] 
GALM:   Give  it  validity. 

CORITA:   Made  it  okay,  you  see.   Put  a  different  tone  on  it. 
And  then  there  was  something  else  very  humorous.   I  can't 
remember  [it  exactly] ,  but  it  was  a  statement  from  Pope 
John  which  a  number  of  people  came  in  and  reacted  to  very 
violently,  and  we  had  to  take  that  out.   So  the  students 
were  there  making  these  decisions,  you  see,  because  I  was  in 


transit.   So  they  called  to  tell  me  what  they  had  done. 

So  there  wasn't  much  we  could  do  about  that.   I  said,  "Just 

do  whatever  you  think  is  best  on  the  spot."   But  it  really 

created  a  great — I  suppose  not  a  very  great  percentage  of 

New  Yorkers  complained,  but  enough  to  make  a  little  trouble 


GALM:   Why  did  IBM  choose  Immaculate  Heart  to  do  it? 

CORITA:   I  wish  I  could  think  of  the  man  who  was  in  charge 

of  their  design  department  who  had  known  of  our  work  and 

just  knew  we  would  put  on  a  good  show.   [Robert  Monahan] 

GALM:   And  just  didn't  see  that  a  peace  theme  could  be  a 

radical  .  .  . 

CORITA:   .  .  .  could  be  dangerous.   No,  in  fact,  he  came  out 

during  the  preparation  of  the  exhibit  and  looked  at  most 

of  the  material  that  we  had  and  just  thought  it  was  marvelous. 

I  guess  they  had  never  done  anything  quite  like  this  and 

didn't  know  what  the  man  in  the  street  was  going  to  make 

of  it. 

GALM:   Was  there  much  student  activity  at  Immaculate  Heart 

during  the  disruptive  campus  years? 

CORITA:   Well,  it  was  very  mild,  whatever  there  was,  compared 

with  what  was  going  on  at  Berkeley,  for  example.   Nothing 

like  that.   It  was  at  that  time  almost  totally  a  girls' 

school.   There  were  some  boys  in  the  music  department.   I 

think  the  students  were  involved,  but  they  were  .... 


Well,  at  that  time--I  can't  speak  of  now,  but  at  that  time — 

none  of  them  were  involved  in  drugs  or  in  that  end  of  the 

scene,  and  they  were  probably  involved  in  school  and  their 

own  social  life. 

GALM:   Did  the  art  department  ever  become  a  hub  of  political 


CORITA:   No.   Other  than  those  things  like  the  IBM  exhibit. 

That's  as  far  as  we  went.   And  the  Mary's  Day  things, 

which  were  political  in  a  sense,  as  far  as  issues  were 

concerned.   But  certainly  not  about  candidates. 

GALM:   Why  don't  we  shift  over  to  a  major  commission  that 

you  had,  and  that  was  the  Vatican  Pavilion  wall.   You 

mentioned  last  time  that  the  invitation  to  do  it  did  not 

come  from  church  authorities. 

CORITA:   Didn't  come  from  Rome.   [laughter] 

GALM:   Who  did  it  come  from? 

CORITA:   Norman  Laliberte  was  in  charge  of  a  large  area  on 

the  first  floor.   It  was  a  two-floor  exhibit.   Did  you  see 


GALM:   No. 

CORITA:   So  he  was  really  the  one  who  wrote  to  me  and  asked 

if  I  would  do  it.   So  I  did  three  and  chose  the  one  I  liked 

best  and  sent  it. 

GALM:   You  did  three,  what?  in  scale  or  in  full? 

CORITA:   No,  I  did  three  full  ones  because  I  had  never  done 


anything  that  big.   Well,  I  had  done,  I  think,  a  billboard, 
small,  and  then  it  was  blown  up.   I've  forgotten  what  it 
was  for,  even.   But  I  just  felt  I  wanted  to  do  more  than 
one.   In  fact,  I  usually  do  more  than  one  of  a  thing  when 
I'm  doing  a  job  because  I  work  very  much  from  a  kind  of 
intuitive  level;  I  have  to  be  very  free  when  I'm  working, 
and  sometimes  you're  not  free  when  you  start.   And  then  you 
get  relaxed  into  an  idea,  and  there  is  a  greater  communica- 
tion, I  think,  between  what  starts  at  the  gut  level  and  what 
comes  out  of  your  hand.   At  that  time,  I  had  a  good  friend 
who  was  principal  over  at  the  [Mother  of]  Good  Counsel 
School  [Carol  Carrig] ,  which  was  close  to  the  college,  and 
she  lent  me  their  school  basement,  which  was  stored  with 
all  kinds  of  furniture,  including  two  large  tables.   So 
we  moved  all  the  furniture  to  one  side  of  the  room — this 
was  forty  feet  long — and  I  would  spread  out  the  area  I 
was  working  on,  on  two  big  tables,  probably  about  once  and 
a  half  again  the  size  of  this  room.   And  then  the  other 
part--as  I  finished  it,  I'd  drape  it  over  the  furniture 
and  then  pull  it  down  as  I  needed  it.   [laughter] 
CALM:   Were  you  given  the  theme — the  Beatitudes--or  was 
that  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   I  think  I  was,  yes. 

GALM:   I  came  across  something,  and  it  sounded  like  it  was 
the  description  for  the  commission,  that  it  had  tCi  be 


4  X  40  feet,  or  was  that  just  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   That's  right,  no,  that's  right.   That  was  the 
space  that  they  had  for  it. 
GALM:   And  were  you  given  $2,500  to  do  it? 
CORITA:   Yes. 

GALM:   It  had  to  be  to  New  York  by  March  1? 
CORITA:   Right. 

GALM:   You  got  $700  for  two  sisters  to  fly  out  to  check 
it  out? 

CORITA:   Right. 

GALM:   You  mentioned  that  you  did  three.   Would  you  recall 
which  one  you  actually  took? 

CORITA:   Yes.   I'm  trying  to  remember  whether  it  was  first, 
second,  or  third,  in  order.   Is  that  what  you're  asking? 
GALM:   I'm  trying  to  test  your  feeling  of  opening  up  after 
you've  worked  with--whether  it  actually  was  one  of  the 
later  ones. 

CORITA:   I'm  not  really  sure.   It  was  either  the  second  or 
the  third.   I  did  one  that  was  very,  very  much  like  my 
prints,  very  free  shapes,  and  just  the  words  of  the  Beati- 
tudes themselves.   I  had  made  my  own  set  of  Beatitudes  by 
taking  phrases  from  different  translations  of  Scripture  that 
I  liked.   None  of  them  quite  seemed  all  good,  but  some  of 
them  were  good  in  parts.   I  put  my  own  together,  so  to 
speak.   The  first  one  had  just  the  words,  and  then--don't 


remember  the  order  of  the  other  two,  but  for  one  I  chose 
words  from  John  F.  Kennedy  and  Pope  John,  who  were,  of 
course,  the  great  heroes  of  the  time;  and  then  the  other 
one  was  much  smaller  in  scale.   In  fact,  I  really  liked  it 
better  than  the  one  I  sent,  but  it  was  to  be  up  above  eye 
level,  probably  from  about  eight  feet  down  four  feet.   And 
the  one  that  consisted  of  quotations  from  many,  many  people 
was  much  smaller  in  scale.   The  words  were  too  small,  I 
felt,  to  be  read  at  that  level,  though  I  liked  it  better 
than  the  one  I  sent.   And  later,  that  one,  the  first  one, 
got  sold  at  an  art  sale  when  I  was  away.   And  the  one  with 
the  smaller  words  was  purchased  by  the  United  Church 
people;  they  circulated  it  for  a  number  of  years,  and  I 
don't  know  where  it  finally  ended  up.   And--or  did  they 
buy  the  .  .  .  ?   Yes,  I  take  it  back.   They  purchased  the 
one  from  the  Vatican  Pavilion  and  circulated  it  among  their 
groups.   And  the  one  with  the  small  printing,  I  exhibited  in 
a  couple  of  places;  and  then  it  was  finally  purchased  by 
Fullerton  Junior  College,  and  it's  in  their  cafeteria  now. 
And  that's  kind  of  a  nice  offshoot.   It's  right  down  above 
the  table  which  holds  the  food,  so  it's  great.   The  students 
can  read  at  eye  level  as  they  go  by. 

GALM:   What  was  the  reaction  to  it?   I've  heard  of  the 
positive  reaction.   Was  there  much  negative  reaction  to  it? 
CORITA:   I  don't  remember  any  negative  reaction  connected 


with  that.   Actually,  Laliberte's  work  was  very  much,  at 
that  time,  in  tune  with  it.   So  that  whole  area  was  really 
very  nicely  designed  as  a  kind  of  unit.   The  mural  you 
passed  by  just  before  you  got  into  the  Pieta  area.   And  if 
there  were  bad  things,  I  don't  remember  ever  hearing  them. 
I  got  a  lot  of  good  response  from  it,  but  I  don't  remember 
ever  hearing  anything  negative.   Probably  was  said,  I'm 
sure,  among  all  those  people. 

GALM:   Then  you  did  get  some  other  major  commissions.   The 
Westinghouse — that  came  a  little  bit  later,  1966. 
CORITA:   You're  so  good  with  my  dates. 
GALM:   I've  looked  them  up. 

CORITA:   The  Westinghouse  series,  I  guess  you'd  call  them. 
David  Lewis,  who  is  in  charge  of  advertising — or  sales 
promotion,  some  such  thing — came  out  to  see  me  in  the  art 
department  when  I  was  still  teaching  and  talked  about  this 
series.   At  that  time,  neither  of  us  knew  how  long  it  was 
going  to  go  on.   So  I  said,  yes,  I  would  be  interested. 
So  I  did  it,  and  it's  still  going  on.   About  three  or  four 
years  ago,  they  made  a  portfolio.   When  they  put  the  ad  in 
the  magazine  each  time,  they  also  have  a  silk-screen  print 
made  from  it  in  an  edition  of  about  200  or  300,  and  these 
are  sent  as  gifts  to  the  people  on  the  president's  mailing 
list — that  is,  [Donald  H.]  McGannon.   Not  the  president  of 
the  United  States,  [laughter]  the  president  of  Group  W.   And 


they  also  have  reprints  which  they  send  to  people  who  write 
in  for  them,  which  are  printed  on  better  paper.   They  made 
a  portfolio  of  the  past  designs--!  think  they're  the  first 
sixteen,  beautifully  presented--and  then  this  also  was 
mailed  to  that  same  mailing  list  [The  Corita  Collection : 
An  Expression  of  Broadcasting  Philosophy] . 
GALM:   It's  unfortunate  that's  such  a  limited  edition. 
CORITA:   Yes,  right.   Except  the  original  thing  in  the 
magazine  is  not  very  limited,  and  usually  it's  in  about 
three  or  four  magazines.   Not  always  the  same  ones:   some- 
times in  a  trade  magazine,  and  then  sometimes  in  Fortune, 
sometimes  in  Time  and  Newsweek,  or  ...  . 

GALM:   Did  that  please  your  goals,  the  fact  that  it  would 
receive  such  wide  circulation? 

CORITA:   Very  much.   Because  I  think  this  is  what  really 
kept  me  in  prints  after  I  got  started,  though  I  have  done 
some  paintings.   I  really  like  the  idea  of  lots  of  people 
being  able  to  have  them  and  my  being  able  to  keep  one 
myself.   So,  yes,  I've  always  had  the  feeling  that  I  want 
the  stuff  to  get  out.   Like  I  would  love  to  do  billboards. 
GALM:   You've  done  one,  haven't  you? 

CORITA:  Yes,  I've  done  one,  and  I've  done  another  one 
that  will  go  up  this  summer,  I  think,  for  the  college. 
GALM:   For  Immaculate  Heart? 

CORITA:   For  Immaculate  Heart.   But  I  just  love  the  idea  of 
the  work  being  really  public.   I  think  I  feel  a  bit  private 


now  about  myself,  but  I  like  the  work  to  be  public. 

GALM:   Was  the  Container  Corporation  [of  America ] --was  that 

a  similar  project? 

CORITA:   That  was  just  a  single  invitation. 

GALM:   In  other  words,  that  wasn't  a  series. 

CORITA:   No,  no.   It  was  a  series,  but  I  was  just  one  of 

the  people  in  the  series. 

GALM:   Oh,  I  see. 

CORITA:   In  fact,  I  think  they  sort  of  really  had  a  great 

deal  of  influence  on  magazine  ads.   At  least  some  companies 

since  have  done  that  sort  of  thing,  giving  an  artist  a  whole 

page  and  just  a  byline  for  the  company.   And  of  course  the 

Westinghouse  people  went  one  step  further  and  gave  me  the 

whole  page  without  a  byline.   They  have  a  separate  page  with 

their  information  on  it. 

GALM:   Did  you  have  any  input  as  to  the  selection  of  the 

men,  the  words  of  wisdom? 

CORITA:   No,  David  usually  chooses  those.   I  always  have 

the  freedom  to  refuse  to  do  it  if  I  don't  like  it,  and 

they'll  find  another  one.   But  they've  always  just  been 

things  that  were  very  much  to  my  liking. 

GALM:   Never  refused  a  one. 

CORITA:   Never  refused  a  one,  yes.   That's  been  a  lovely 

kind  of  relationship  because  there  has  never  been  any  kind 

of  written  contract  or  any  confusion  or  complexity  or 


trouble.   It  just  has  been  a  very  simple  arrangement. 
GALM:   I  heard  through  a  second  or  a  third  or  a  fourth 
party  that  you  also  did  a  happening  for  the  Westinghouse 
people  back  in  Philadelphia.   Would  you  describe  that? 
CORITA:   Yes.   It  was  in  a  program  with  an  architect  and 
a  city  planner,  so  there  were  three  of  us  on  the  program. 
No,  I'm  getting  it  mixed  up  with  Winterfest,  which  I  did 
for  Boston.   Well,  I  did  several  of  these,  and  they  mainly 
consisted  of  an  introductory  talk,  in  which  I  would  discuss 
a  bit  of  the  feeling  and  reason  behind  celebration,  what 
visual  things  did  for  us,  and  what  it  meant  for  a  group  of 
people  to  do  things  together.   [I  would]  just  sort  of  get 
the  people  to  the  point  where  they  would  do  the  things 
from  a  spirit  of  their  own  understanding  rather  than  having 
something  silly  dictated  to  them  to  do  or  something  that 
would  make  them  feel  silly,  because  I  think  if  they  were 
taken  out  of  context,  they  might  feel  silly  doing  them. 
We  had  prepared,  I  think,  a  bag  for  each  person,  and  there 
were — let's  see — there  were  balloons  and  hats  and  I  can't 
remember  what  .... 

GALM:   I  think  a  quotation,  too,  possibly. 
CORITA:   A  quotation,  yes,  a  quotation  that  they  were  to 
read  to  the  person  next  to  them.   So  it  was  an  effort  to  have 
a  small  celebration  just  about  being  together  because  it 
really  wasn't  commemorating  anything  or  celebrating  anything 


outside  of  just  the  fact  that  we  were  there  together. 

GALM:   This  individual  said  that  they  all  broke  out  singing 

"Auld  Lang  Syne. " 

CORITA:   Yes,  now  that  you  say  that,  yes.   [laughter] 

GALM:   Which  does  seem  to  indicate  that  the  spirit  was 


CORITA:   Yes,  yes.   Well,  again,  then  I  think--maybe  I 

mentioned  this  to  you  when  I  was  talking  about  giving 

assignments  .... 


APRIL  13,  1976 

GALM:   You  were  going  to  mention  something  about  student 
assignments  in  connection  with — did  you  actually  call 
these  happenings,  or  .  .  .  ? 
CORITA:   Yes,  they  did. 

GALM:   Oh,  they  did.   [laughter]   What  did  you  call  them? 
CORITA:   I  don't  know--they  were  just  jobs.   [laughter]   But 
in  giving  assignments  to  the  students,  I  think  I  talked  to 
you  about  trying  to  separate  their  reasoning  function  from 
their  intuitive  function,  or  maybe  more  their  analytical 
function  from  their  synthetic  function,  their  putting  things 
together.   Or  their  critical — that's  better — the  critical 
from  their  creative  function.   So  that  if  you  could  get 
people  to  the  point  where  their  critical  faculties  were 
involved  in  something,  almost  anything,  their  creative 
functions  could  function  more  freely,  because  they  don't 
go  together:   one  is  taking  apart,  and  one  is  putting 
together;  one  is  making,  and  one  is  reviewing  what  has  been 
made.   And  if  you're  reviewing  while  you  are  making,  you 
become  very  awkward  in  the  making.   I  suppose  it  would  be 
like  an  actor  thinking  "Now  I  am  acting  and  what  is  the 
audience  thinking?"  instead  of  just  being  fully  in  the  part. 
So  for  the  happening,  I  usually  had  about  five  or  six  things 
as  instructions  that  I  would  tell  them  to  do,  and  they  were 


very  definite  with  very  short-term  goals  so  that  nobody 
in  the  room  would  feel  that  they  were  difficult  to  do.   I 
mean,  trained  as  we  are  to  do  what  we're  told  to  do,  they 
were  very  serious  about  this  and  they  would  do  them — one, 
two,  three,  four,  five.   And  they  were  so  constructed, 
the  directions,  that  they  created  the  form  for  the  celebra- 
tion, and  the  people  then  brought  that  form  to  life. 
GALM:   What  was  the  company  trying  to  accomplish  by  these 

CORITA:   I  think  companies  or  anybody  that  puts  on  conven- 
tions is  always  trying  to  do  something  that  will  make  the 
convention  less  deadly,  [laughter]  rather  than  just  having 
all  speeches  or  all  discussions--to  have  something.   In 
fact,  where  was  it  that  we  did  a  program  with  .  .  .  ?   Oh, 
I  know.   I  was  invited  to  put  on  one  of  these  happenings 
at  a  ...  .   What  was  it  called?   I'm  trying  to  think  if 
it  was  at  Yale  or  some  comparable  institution,  and  they 
were  having  a  meeting  of  theologians.   And  we  were  on  the 
last  night.   I  brought  two  people  along  to  help  me.   And 
all  of  the  people  said,  "You  know,  it  would  have  been  much 
better  if  this  had  happened  at  the  beginning  of  the  confer- 
ence instead  of  at  the  end."   Because  it  just  sort  of  undid 
everybody:   they  started  talking  to  each  other  and  being 
very  relaxed.   And  it  would  have  been  a  good  thing  to  start 
with  and  then  carry  on  their  deep  theological  discussions. 


GALM:   I  know  when  we  ended  last  time,  you  mentioned  that 
you  had  just  received  from  a  friend  a  Hallmark  brochure  or 
something  ... 
CORITA:   A  book. 

GALM:   .  .  .  and  that  what  they  were  doing  were  things  that 
you  and  your  students  at  Immaculate  Heart  had  thrown  away, 
or  had  .... 

CORITA:   Well,  I  was  thinking  not  so  much  that  we  had 
thrown  away,  but  they  were  obviously  borrowed  techniques. 
They  were  poor  examples  of  things  that  we  would  have 
discarded  if  I  had  the  group.   You  know,  if  I  had  each 
person  do  a  group  of  fifty,  then  we  would  choose  the  best 
from  that.   And  I  think  it  had  the  tone  that  they  were  things 
we  wouldn't  have  taken. 

GALM:   You  mentioned  that  they  were  dead.   What  techniques 
did  you  use  to  infuse  life  into  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  for  me,  in  a  picture,  life  is  a  sort 
of  synonym  for  quality.   And  if  a  thing  has  quality,  it  lives, 
And  if  it's  hackneyed  or  if  it's  amateurish,  or  if  it  just 
doesn't  have  good  form,  doesn't  have  good  shapes,  it  just 
doesn't  work.   Like  bad  poetry,  you  know.   They  can  use 
marvelous  words,  but  put  them  together  in  the  wrong  order, 
or  use  corny  words--you  know  the  difference  between  a  good 
poem  and  a  bad  poem,  or  one  that  just  really  excites  you 
and  which  you  can  live  with  for  a  long  time  or  something  you 


read  and  you  say,  "Well,  that's  rather  obvious."   So  I 
think  some  of  those  same  distinctions  hold,  and  it's  a 
matter  of  just  exercising  yourself  in  looking  until  you 
become  more  and  more  refined.   And  then,  of  course,  you 
always  have  surprises,  too.   I  always  had  great  surprises 
with  the  students.   As  they  would  put  out  their  things,  we 
would  all  stand  around  and  talk  about  them.   A  lot  of 
times,  I  would  look  at  a  certain  piece  and  say,  "I  don't 
like  that."   I  would  say  this  to  myself,  and  as  different 
people  talked  about  it,  a  lot  of  times  I  would  look  at  it 
again  and  find  that  there  was  something  in  it  that  my  set 
of  prejudices  had  prevented  me  from  seeing;  I  began  to  see 
it  differently  and  liked  it.   So  that  it  wasn't  a  matter  of 
quality,  it  was  a  matter  of  myself  blocking  myself  from 
seeing  what  may  have  been  a  new  form  to  me. 

GALM:   I  noticed  in  one  of  the  things  that  you'd  written — I 
assume  that  maybe  it  was  a  pass-out  to  the  students--that 
you  were  talking  about  screens  that  operate  and  that  there 
are  two  major  screens,  one  being  the  screen  of  history, 
and  I  think  the  other  screen  being  that--it  has  to  do  with 
ugliness,  that  .... 

CORITA:   We  have  in  our  minds  that  certain  things  are  ugly, 
and  so  we  don't  really  look  at  them. 

GALM:   Did  you  have  any  specific  assignments  for  them  to 
overcome  this  prejudice? 


CORITA:   Yes,  I  remember  at  that  time  I  was  very  excited 
about  billboards.   I  guess  it  was  the  whole  era  of  pop  art. 
And  I  also  got  very  excited  about  sections  of  the  city  that 
I  would  have  called  ugly  before.   I  took  the  students  to — 
there  were  two  Mark  [C]  Bloome  tire  companies;  one  was  the 
one  on  Sunset  Boulevard,  I  think,  and  the  other  was  down  on 
La  Brea,  perhaps,  or  in  that  area  below  Wilshire.   So  we 
just  went  there,  either  with  cameras  or  with  little  finders, 
you  know,  a  piece  of  paper  with  a  rectangle  cut  out  of  the 
center  which  you  can  look  in  and  just  see  a  small  section. 
And  we  just  spent  the  afternoon,  two  afternoons,  one  at 
one  place  and  one  at  the  other,  just  looking.   And  of  course, 
taking  off  small  pieces,  little  rectangles,  that  are  like 
taking  a  picture,  you  can  take  a  section,  or  maybe  a  section 
of  a  letter  [where]  not  the  whole  word  shows  and  certainly 
not  the  whole  gas  station.   There  were  some  things  you 
couldn't  do  anything  good  with,  like  artificial  flowers. 
And  there  was  a  marvelously  funny  wall  behind  the  one  down 
on  La  Brea,  behind  piles  of  tires.   The  piles  of  tires  were 
beautiful  because  they  were  really  just  piled  up  so  nicely, 
and  they  were  nice  looking  as  tires,  and  all.   And  behind 
them  was  painted — or  I  guess  it  was  wallpaper — a  kind  of 
imitation  bricks  and  ivy.   [laughter]   It  was  hysterical. 
But  then  I  was  thinking  the  other  day — I  was  driving 
down,  riding  down  Western  Avenue,  down  as  far  as  Third 


street,  and  I  couldn't  believe  how  ugly  a  place  could  be. 
And  then  of  course  I  think  I  feel  very  differently  about 
Hollywood,  having  lived  in  Boston,  because  I'm  living  in  a 
part  of  Boston  in  which  the  houses  were  built  in  the  late 
1800s,  and  they  have  such  a  community.   They  belong  together, 
even  though  they're  very  different  and  have  kind  of  funny 
parts  to  them,  as  if  they  were  taken  out  of  a  catalog  and 
put  together.   But  they're  all  kind  of  brownstone,  and 
they're  all  about  the  same  height,  and  they're  all  residences 
— though  by  now  cut  up  into  apartments,  but  they  were 
residences . 

GALM:   Of  course,  massage  parlors  moved  into  Western  after 
you  left. 

CORITA:   Right.   Oh,  yes,  yes. 

GALM:   Can  you  see  beauty  in  those  signs?   [laughter] 
CORITA:   No,  I  couldn't.   I  said  to  myself,  "This  is  really 
depressing.   This  is  really  ugly."   So  I  think  it  had  to 
do  with  selecting  out  of  that.   It  was  not  really  .... 
Then,  of  course,  if  you  put  a  lot  of  things  together,  like 
a  whole  row  of  neon  signs,  for  example,  even  if  they  have 
little  cocktail  signs  with  water  dripping  into  them,  still, 
the  conglomerate  can  be  kind  of  exciting.   Like  Broadway,  I 
guess.   Somebody  said  if  you  couldn't  read  English,  Broadway 
would  be  beautiful  with  its  night  lights. 

GALM:   Your  prints  that  now  depend — no,  I  shouldn't  use  the 
word  "depend" — that  use  phrases  that  are  so  well  known  to 


the  mind,  like  "a  tiger  in  your  tank"--well,  of  course, 

twenty  years,  thirty  years  from  now,  no  one' 11  realize  the 

significance  of  some  of  those  phrases,  those  catch  phrases. 

CORITA:   I  don't  think  I  ever  worry  about  something  I  do 

lasting  forever.   I  think  at  that  time,  those  were  very 

meaningful  to  some  people,  and  it  was  just  a  kind  of 

contagious,  fun  thing  that  I  got  into. 

GALM:   Do  you  think  they  can  still  stand  on  their  own  merit, 


CORITA:   I  think  so,  visually,  um-hmm.   Not  in  the  same 

sense,  I  suppose,  as  the  more  poetic  ones  would,  but  I 

think  those  distinctions  are  not  really  valid.   Things  are 

different,  and  maybe  one  isn't  better  than  the  other. 

And  some  things  that  last  longer  may  not  be  better  than  some 

things  that  are  just  good  for  the  moment.   I  think  I  don't 

like  distinctions  much.   [laughter] 

GALM:   Can  you  remember  the  first  time  that  you  decided  to 

take  a  slogan,  a  TV  slogan,  or  a  Madison  Avenue  phrase? 

CORITA:   Yes.   One  summer,  the  last  print  I  made — I  think 

it  was  the  last  print  I  made — was  Go  Slow.   Well,  that 

was  taken  from  just  a  traffic  signal,  and  it  had  a — what  is 

it? — a  reverse  curve,  that  warns  you  that  you're  coming  to 

the  end.   It  also  has  an  arrow.   And  then  I  entitled  it 

Luke--I ' ve  forgotten  the  chapter  and  verse,  but  it  was  that 

section  in  St.  Luke  where  he  talks  about  Mary  keeping  all 


these  things  in  her  heart  [Luke  2:14,51].   And  there  was  a 
big,  red  heart  in  it  also.   So  I  really  thought  of  that  as 
my  then  picture  of  the  Immaculate  Heart,  which  was  just  a 
very  bold,  graphic  set  of  symbols.   That  was  the  first  one. 
And  then  another  one  of  the  very  early  ones  was,  I  took  the 
"In"  from  the  parking  lot  next  to  us  and  the  arrow  and  used 
that  pretty  literally  [In] .   But  it  depends  on  the  colors 
and  shapes  and  what  you  do  with  them. 

I  did  this  for  two  or  three  years,  two  at  least,  and 
I  remember  it  was  the  second  year,  that  summer  we  were  up 
at  Montecito  with  Dan  Berrigan.   And  I  remember  once,  we 
had  a  marvelous  night.   There  were  about  four  of  us  with 
Dan,  and  I  knew  that  I  was  going  to  come  home  and  make  my 
prints.   And  I  thought,  "VJell,  this  is  a  great  opportunity. 
I'll  get  some  help  before  I  go."   So  we  all  got  together 
with  a  bunch  of  magazines  and  tore  phrases.   I  suggested 
that  everybody  take  two  phrases  from  separate  ads  that  were 
fun  together.   And  some  of  those  I  actually  pasted  up  and 

GALM:   Was  there  an  inclination  at  first  to  tie  in  the 
phrases  to  something  more--such  as  a  biblical  phrase,  or 
a  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   Yes,  for  the  most  part,  I  thought  of  them  as  meaning 
something  else.   Like,  "put  a  tiger  in  your  tank"  I  really 
think  of  as  saying  [that]  the  spirit,  whatever  the  spirit 


means  to  us,  is  inside  of  us,  the  God  who  is  in  us,  or  who 
is  us,  whatever,  however  you  want  to  say  it.   Coming  out  of 
me,  I  think  people  read  them  on  that  level.   And  usually, 
these  prints  were  seen  in  the  context  of  a  show,  where  there 
was  enough — how  shall  I  say  it? — well,  there  might  be  a 
poem  or  another  phrase,  or  it  might  even  be  a  scriptural 
phrase  juxtaposed  or  a  poetic  phrase  juxtaposed.   So  they 
got  the  idea  that  these  were  to  be  read  on  another  level. 
So  they  became  symbols,  in  a  sense. 

GALM:   Did  you  always  feel  that  juxtaposition  was  necessary 
for  the  people  to  understand?   Or  eventually  could  the  phrase 
stand  on  its  own,  even  though  it  was,  say,  a  common  phrase? 
CORITA:   I  think  I  always  wanted  to  do  something  with  it 
myself,  because  even  the  In  print,  as  I  now  think,  had  a 
little  phrase  from  Lewis  Carroll  which  says,  [laughter]  "When 
I  choose  a  word,  it  means  just  what  I  choose  it  to  mean." 
GALM:   I  guess  that's  exactly  what  you're  doing,  isn't  it? 
CORITA:   Yes.   [laughter]   It's  the  old  teacher  in  me,  I 
guess,  yes. 

GALM:   What  about  colors?   When  you  decide  upon  color  .... 
That  one  is  black,  and  it's  blue,  and  it's  very  strong. 
CORITA:   Yes,  yes.   I  love  that  print  [Iri]  .   It's 
one  of  my  very  favorites.   Well,  the  color--you  know,  it  was 
funny:   in  that  time  when  I  was  describing  working  with  a 
group  of  people  helping,  a  lot  of  times  whoever  was  mixing 


the  paint  would  say,  "What  color  are  you  going  to  use  next?" 
And  I  would  say,  "Why  don't  you  make  one,  and  we'll  see  if 
it  works?"   So,  sometimes  it  was  a  surprising  thing  like 
that  because  somebody  else  would  be  throwing  in  a  color.   I'm 
sure  if  I  hadn't  liked  it,  I  would  have  said  no.   But  if 
it  came  from  somebody  else,  and  I  liked  it,  I  took  it. 
For  example,  the  colors  in  my  newest  prints,  I  just  felt  a 
need  to  move  away  from  the  primary  colors,  the  rainbow 
colors,  which  I'd  been  using  for  a  number  of  years,  and 
do  something  that  was  just  a  little  different,  kind  of  off, 
kind  of  calm.   And  these  prints — they  just  came  this  morning 
— as  I  look  at  them,  I  find  them  very  calm  and  quiet.   From 
time  to  time  I  have  read  myself,  and  now  I  think  I'm  more 
up  with  myself,  and  I  know  that  there  is  a  calming  in  me. 
When  I  was  making  the  prints,  I  didn't  think,  "I  am  feeling 
calmer  now,"  but  as  I  look  at  them  now,  I  say,  "Yeah,  that's 
what's  happening  in  me,  too." 

GALM:   So  in  that  middle  period,  say  in  the  sixties,  there 
was  perhaps  more  of  a  need  to  make  strong  statements  with 
strong  color? 
CORITA:   Yes. 

GALM:   You  mention  community.   You  mentioned  the  students 
began  to  reject  the  idea  of  working  in  a  group  assignment. 
CORITA:   Some,  not  all.   Some  were  the  good  old-fashioned  kind 
who  were  willing,  gung-ho  to  do  anything.   And  I  thought  of 


these  group  projects  as  marvelous  experiences  for  the 
students,  because  I  thought,  well,  if  they're  going  to  get 
into  art  work,  this  is  what  they're  going  to  be  doing. 
They're  going  to  be  working  for  somebody,  and  they're  going 
to  have  to  take  orders  from  someone;  and  they'll  never 
have  it  this  good  because  they'll  never  get  to  really  do 
their  own  things.   They'll  probably  in  the  beginning  be  more 
often  told  what  to  do  more  specifically  than  I  was  telling 
them.   But  I  thought  here  was  a  chance  to  have  their  work 
shown  publicly  and  also  to  be  a  part  of  something  bigger. 
But  that  was  my  view  of  it,  and  it  wasn't  always  theirs — 
or  the  view  of  all  of  them. 

GALM:  Do  you  think  the  Immaculate  Heart  art  department 
was  unique  in  that  it  undertook  so  many  group  projects? 
CORITA:   Yes,  I  think  so. 

GALM:   Anybody  else  that  you  know  of  that  was  doing  .  .  .  ? 
CORITA:   No,  no.   People  were  having  exhibits  of  student 
work,  but  they  would  be  assemblages  of  individual  work.   I'm 
not  saying  again  that  one  is  better  or  one  is  worse,  but 
they're  just — it  was  a  kind  of  different  experience. 
GALM:   Was  that  an  approach  that  you  began  immediately  as 
soon  as  you  started  teaching  in  art? 

CORITA:   No,  no.   I  think  in  the  beginning  I  taught  more  as 
I  had  been  taught,  and  this  sort  of  evolved  as  we  bumped 
into  different  things,  as  we  bumped  into  new  problems. 


GALM:   Do  you  think  that  the  fact  that  you  were  part  of  a 
comrnunity--did  that  have  any  bearing  on  your  ability, 
perhaps,  to  work  with  community  projects? 

CORITA:   I  never  thought  of  it,  but  I'm  sure  it  made  it  a 
very  natural  thing  to  do,  yes. 

GALM:   Because  there  must  bave  been  other  things  within 
the  community  that  you  did  as  a  community. 
CORITA:   Um-hmm,  um-hmm,  right. 
GALM:   Learned  how  to  make  use  of  the  best. 
CORITA:   Yes,  that's  right,  um-hmm.   In  fact,  the  whole 
community  was  just  that.   [laughter]   With  each  person  doing 
what  she  could  do  best. 

GALM:   Well,  it  sort  of  struck  me  when  you  said  that  about 
the  students  beginning  not  to  want  to  do  as  much  as  group 
projects  that  maybe--was  it  just  a  reflection  of  time  change? 
CORITA:   Well,  I  think  maybe  that  was  a  reflection,  and  maybe 
this  is  getting  back  to  the  question  you  asked  earlier, 
that  that  was  probably  the  form  that  revolt  took  place.   I 
mean,  the  form  which  the  revolt  took  on  our  campus  was  that 
the  students  got  to  be  not  wanting  to  be  told  what  to  do. 
And  it  began  to  sort  of  disintegrate  all  of  the  requirements 
and  the  prepared  programs.   Now  I  think  there  are  no  require- 
ments except  those  that  each  department  sets  up.   And  those 
are  very  few.   I  think  in  one  sense,  it  was  a  necessity,  and 
they  probably  had  to  come  to  it.   But  I  think  in  another 


sense,  something  is  lost  because  there  were  many  required 
classes  that  the  students  would  take  and  would  then  get 
wildly  interested  in.   It  may  just  have  turned  their  whole 
direction  or  made  them  change  their  major,  and  if  they 
hadn't  been  forced  into  the  class,  they  would  never  have 
chosen  to  take  it.   So  I  suppose  it's  like  anybody,  like 
people  raising  children.   It's  always  a  hard  line;  it's 
always  hard  to  draw  the  line  or  hit  the  balance  as  to  what 
young  people  should  be  just  commanded  to  do  which  they'll 
never  have  sense  enough  to  choose  for  themselves,  or  how 
much  they  should  be  allowed  ....   I  remember  Margaret 
Mead  saying — I  went  to  a  very  small  seminar  of  hers  in  the 
East,  and  there  were  about  four  students  who  came  with  this 
one  teacher.   They  were  college-age  students,  young  college. 
And  Margaret  Mead  was  saying  that  she  thought  everyone 
should  put  in  two  years  of  voluntary  service  to  their  country 
— certainly  not  going  to  war,  but  just  helping  people. 
And  this  one  young  man  said,  "I  don't  think  that's  a  good 
idea.   I  wouldn't  mind  volunteering,  but  I  wouldn't  like  to 
be  told  what  to  do."   And  she  turned  on  him,  and  she  said, 
"That's  just  the  trouble  with  you  young  people  today.   You 
don't  want  to  be  told  to  do  anything."   [laughter]   She 
said,  "You  know  very  well  that  if  it  weren't  enforced,  or 
if  it  weren't  an  obligation,  most  young  people  wouldn't  do 
it."   She  really  gave  it  to  him  in  no  uncertain  terms.   But 


I  think  that's  true:   a  lot  of  people  wouldn't.   And  yet  at 

the  same  time,  it's  awful  to  force  people  to  do  things. 

GALM:   You  also  mentioned  that  there  was  perhaps  a  certain 

resentment  of  your  growing  reputation  as  an  artist. 

CORITA:   Um-hmm.   It  was  a  very  difficult  time,  I  think,  for 

the  students  because  I  was  away  a  lot  more  than  they  thought 

I  should  be  away.   And  again,  I  thought  that  was  good  for 

them  because  I  would  leave  them  with  a  lot  of  work  to  do. 

They  had  peace  and  quiet  to  do  it  in,  and  then  when  I  came 

back,  you  know,  we  would  look  at  the  work.   And  then  it  got 

also  very  difficult  because  we  began  to  have  a  lot  of 

visitors  at  the  college,  and  sometimes  that  interfered  with 

classes,  or  it  would  take  me  out  of  the  class.   And  some  of 

the  students  resented  that.   So  the  fame  sort  of  got  in  the 

way,  in  a  sense.   And  they  were  just  angry.   But  as  I  say, 

students  were  angry  in  those  days.   So  it  was  .  .  . 

GALM:   You  were  a  focus  for  some  of  it. 

CORITA:   Yes,  yes. 

GALM:   When  did  your  fame  really  begin? 

CORITA:   I  think  it  just  sort  of  grew  as  I  began  to  exhibit 

and  then  do  some  public  things. 

GALM:   Was  there  any  one  particular  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   You  see,  I've  been  at  work  a  long  time. 

GALM:   From  ' 51  to  .  .  .  .   [laughter]   That's  pretty  good. 

CORITA:   Yes,  to  '76.   At  one  of  my  exhibits,  this  young  boy 


came  up  to  me  and  said,  "You  know,  I  really  like  the  sort  of 
stuff  you're  doing,  this  putting  words  and  shapes  together." 
He  said,  "You  know,  I'm  out  of  a  job  now,  and  I  was  wondering 
if  you  could  tell  me  how  to  get  started  in  this,  producing 
these  things."   He  was  looking  at  the  cards  that  were  made 
from  the  prints.   And  I  had  such  a  sinking  feeling  because 
I  thought,  here's  this  young  kid  who  just  thinks  he  can 
start,  and  what  a  rude  awakening  he  has  in  store  for  him! 
So  then  I  think  I  said  something  about,  well,  you  know,  I 
taught  for  thirty-two  years  and  did  this  on  the  side,  and 
then  I  began — I  was  finished  teaching — doing  it  full  time  or 
as  much  time  as  I  wanted  to  spend  on  it.   So  I  said,  "It's 
a  matter  of  working  at  it  for  a  long  time." 
GALM:   Was  there  ever  a  point  before  you  stopped  teaching, 
that  you  thought  to  yourself  that  you  wanted  to  be  artist 
first  and  teacher  second? 

CORITA:   No.   No,  I  always  thought  I  wanted  it  the  other 
way  around.   I  always  thought  that  I  was  a  teacher  and  not 
an  artist,  and  that  I  really  did  that  on  the  side. 
GALM:   Was  there  a  great  enough  shift  in  feeling  that  it 
entered  into  your  leaving  the  community? 
CORITA:   No,  no.   I  think — well,  I  shouldn't  say  that, 
because  I  think  that  first  summer  that  I  went  away,  it  was 
[with]  this  friend  of  mine,  Celia  Hubbard,  with  whom  I 
went  to  stay  in  Cape  Cod,  who  lives  in  Boston.   She  was  the 


one  who  had,  I  think,  written  a  letter--!  found  this  out 
later--to  the  president  of  the  college  to  say  if  something 
weren't  done  about  me,  I  was  going  to  have  a  nervous  break- 
down.  Other  people  could  see  the  pace  at  which  I  was 
going,  which  was  really  insane  toward  the  end,  and  I  don't 
think  I  quite  realized  it.   I  was  young  and  healthy,  and  I 
said  no  to  so  many  things  that  I  thought  I  was  saying  no  to 
as  much  as  was  possible.   But  apparently  I  wasn't.   So 
when  I  found  out  how  simple  life  was  just  staying  with  one 
person  and  making  prints  for  a  whole  summer,  it  began  to 
dawn  on  me  what  I  had  been  doing,  and  I  just  couldn't  do 
it  anymore.   I  had  to  get  away  from  it,  I  think,  to  see  it, 
get  out  of  it  to  experience  what  it  was  to  be  out  of  it, 
before  I  could  realize  it.   And  it  was  at  that  point  that  I 
decided  that  I  just  couldn't  teach  anymore,  that  I  didn't 
want  to  teach  anymore.   Because  I  had  a  lot  of  offers  to 
teach  after  I  left,  marvelous  people  who  wrote,  you  know. 
Some  of  them  were  worried  about  what  I  was  going  to  do. 
[laughter]   "We'll  take  you!"   And  in  fact  a  couple  of  years 
ago,  I  was  asked  to  be  the  artist  in  residence  at  Harvard, 
and  I  just  burst  out  laughing  because  it  just  struck  me  as 
so  funny,  really.   I  said  I  was  sorry;  I  was  really  very 
impressed  and  very  honored,  but  I  just  couldn't  connect  it 
with  me.   But  then  I  said  I  really  wasn't  ready  to  get  back 
into  that,  if  I  ever  would  be,  because  it  would  mean,  you 


know,  going  to  the  school  two  or  three  days  a  week,  being 
there,  doing  my  own  work,  and  letting  the  students  come  as 
they  wanted  to — and  I  think  I  can't  work  anymore  except  by 
myself.   So  to  think  of  having  students  around--!  suppose  if 
I  did  it,  it  might  be  fun;  and  I  really  don't  ever  close  the 
door  and  say  I  will  never  teach  again.   In  fact,  I  did  teach 
a  night  [class] --this  time  I  was  in  Los  Angeles--for  a 
group,  but  it  was  because  I  was  very  interested  in  the  person 
who  had  the  group  and  I  wanted  to  do  it.   And  it  was  a  fun 
experience.   But  I  love  the  freedom  of  not  being  responsible 
for  anybody  else. 

GALM:   But  during  those  last  years,  you  had  never  got  to  the 
point  where  you  actually  resented  the  students? 
CORITA:   As  interfering  with  my  own  work?   No.   Because  I 
really  thought  that  was  my  work.   See,  I  think  I  am  very 
creative,  and  I  think  my  teaching  was  very  creative.   I 
think  it's  possible  to  do  anything,  like  to  teach — almost 
anything  that's  relatively  human--and  be  creative  in  it.   I 
don't  think  you  have  to  be  painting  or  sculpting  or  composing 
music  to  be  artistic  or  to  be  creative.   And  I  think  that 
that  satisfied  my  creative  ....   I  found  teaching  really 
always  very  hard  because  I  think  I  always  maintained  the 
feeling  that  I  couldn't  do  it,  that  I  wasn't  quite  up  to  it. 
So  I  worked  very  hard,  and  I  think  I  made  classes  very  good 
because  I  wasn't  too  sure  of  myself.   So  that  was  a  kind  of 


a  bonus,  a  painful  bonus. 

GALM:   Were  your  students  able  to  go  out  and  be  themselves 
as  artists,  or  was  there  an  inclination  for  them  to  be 
other  Coritas? 

CORITA:   Little  Coritas.   Very  few  of  the  students  in  the 
early  days  went  into  the  arts.   In  fact,  we  used  to  discour- 
age them  against  it.   We  said  to  them  very  frankly,  you  know, 
"If  you  go  into  the  art  field,  you  will  start  at  the  bottom; 
you  will  do  things  that  you  know  you  don't  want  to  do  and 
that  you  know  you  are  not  good  at.   It  would  be  much  better 
if  you  got  a  job  typing  or  teaching  or  doing  something  and 
did  your  art  on  the  side  until  you  got  to  the  point"-- 
which  I  suppose  was  really  my  own  pattern — "got  to  the 
point  where  it  would  be  acceptable.   And  then  you  could 
switch  over  into  the  art."   And  for  the  most  part,  the  art 
majors  became  teachers.   And  I  suppose  this  was  a  very 
natural  outcome  because  they  were  taught  in  such  a  way  that 
they  made  great  teachers.   They  learned  how  to  throw  problems 
to  their  students  and  let  them  open  up  under  the  problems, 
instead  of  just  sort  of  teaching  them  in  a  routine  fashion. 
We  really,  I  think,  sent  out  some  spectacular  teachers. 
GALM:   You  had  mentioned  Celia  Hubbard.   Now,  wasn't  she  the 
woman  who  .  .  .  ? 

CORITA:   She  was  the  director  of  the  Botolph  [Group  Inc.]. 
GALM:   Botolph.   Were  you  connected  with  the  Botolph  Group 


from  the  very  beginning? 

CORITA:   Yes,  we  had  things  on  exhibit.   I  had  things  on 

exhibit — and  I  think  the  students  did,  too — in  the  first 

exhibit  they  put  on.   And  then,  whenever  we'd  go  East,  that 

was  always  one  of  the  places  we  stopped  and  spoke  for  that 


GALM:   How  did  she  form  that  center? 

CORITA:   She  was  a  convert  to  Catholicism.   She  had  been  a 

professional  artist,  and  coming  into  the  Church,  she  could 

see  the  kind  of  ugly  artifacts  that  were  available  to  most 

people  and  thought  it  would  be  a  good  thing  to  do  to  create 

a  place  where  people  could  come  to  find  things  for  the  home 

that  were  beautiful,  like  crucifixes  and  pictures  and 

sculptures  and  creche  sets  and  so  forth.   And  then  they  also 

did  some  consulting  jobs  for  churches  and  chapels  in  the  East. 

GALM:   So  her  relationship  with  you  would  have  been  just  to 

invite  you  to  show  your  work  or  to  actually  purchase  your 

work  .  .  . 

CORITA:   .  .  .  and  to  come  and  speak,  yes. 

GALM:   But  you  wouldn't  have  been  active  in,  say,  its 

continuing  philosophy. 

CORITA:   No,  I  think  at  least  toward  the  end,  that  need  is 

melting  away,  people  are  also  learning  that  a  lot  of  objects 

are  religious  which  we  didn't  formerly  think  were  religious. 

So  it  [Botolph  Group  Gallery]  grew  into  a  kind  of  a  shop. 


It  was  always  a  very  sparkling  kind  of  thing  because  Celia's 
a  very  sparkling  kind  of  person,  and  they  always  had  a  lot 
of  my  things  around,  a  lot  of  my  cards  and  prints.   I 
suppose  I  was  sort  of  their  chief  permanent  artist,  so  to 
speak.   But  there  were  always  interesting  things  there,  and 
it  attracted  a  lot  of  young  people. 

GALM:   I  know  there  was  a  Boston  Tea  Party  held  there.   When 
was  that?   I  wasn't  able  to  establish  the  date.   Harvey 
Cox  and  .  .  . 

CORITA:   .  .  .  and  Dan  Berrigan  and  Judy  Collins,  yes. 
GALM:   Was  that  after  you  moved  back? 

CORITA:   Yes.   I  was  living  with  Celia.   I  stayed  with  Celia 
that  first  year  when  we  moved  from  the  Cape  back  up  to 
Boston.   I  stayed  with  her.   And  it  was  during  that  year--so 
it  must  have  been  '69  or  '70.   I  think  it  could  have  been 
around  Christmastime.   And  we  put  it  on  in  a  place  called 
the  Boston  Tea  Party,  which  was  a  discotheque,  [laughter] 
which  had  been  an  old  church.   It  had  been  many  different 
kinds  of  churches,  but  it  had  originally  been  built  for  a 
church  and  had  been  taken  over  by  different  denominations. 
In  fact,  it  still  had  the  words  sort  of  sculptured  over  a 
great  central  arch  that  said  something  about — it  was  a 
scriptural  quotation;  I  can't  think  of  what  it  was.   But 
it  had  just  stayed  there  all  the  time.   So  it  was  just 
really  for  the  building  that  .... 


GALM:   Was  it  just  sort  of  a  fund  raiser,  or  was  it  just 

an  evening  of  celebration? 

CORITA:   No,  it  was  just  an  evening  of  celebration.   No 

hat  was  passed.   [laughter]   No  admission  was  charged.   It 

was  just  a  celebration,  and  it  really  went  ....   I 

showed  a  lot  of  slides,  and  we  had,  of  course,  music  with 

them.   That  was  during  the  wartime,  so  there  were  a  lot  of 

visual  commentaries  on  that.   And  then  Harvey  and  Dan  spoke, 

and  Judy  sang,  and  I  spoke,  and  then  we  had  enough  bread 

and  wine  for  everybody.   We  passed  it  around.   It  was  an 

unbelievable  crowd,  but  we  did  it. 

GALM:   Did  you  multiply  it  a  bit,  or  ...  ? 

CORITA:   No,  we  just  bought  enough.   [laughter]   But  that 

was  a  really  marvelous  evening,  and  it  was  great.   And  some 

people  got  a  little  disturbed.   Some  of  the  older  Botolph 

board  members  got  a  little  disturbed  because  they  thought 

we  were  having  communion--which  indeed  we  were.   [laughter] 

But  we  were  not  tyring  to  usurp  the  powers  of  the  Church. 

We  were  just  eating  and  drinking  together. 

GALM:   Now,  with  these  commissions,  you  were  making  some 

money.   Right? 

CORITA:   Um-hmm,  yes,  yes. 

GALM:   Now  at  that  time,  was  the  money  then  funneled  back 

into  the  community? 

CORITA:   Into  the  college. 


GALM:   Into  the  college. 

CORITA:  Um-hmm,  yes.  And  then,  whenever--toward  the  end, 
it  was  really,  you  know,  greater  amounts,  as  jobs  began  to 
multiply,  and  so  it  would  go  to  the  college.  And  then, 
whenever  we  needed  anything,  we  would  just  get  it  and  send 
the  bills  to  the  business  department.  So  that  in  a  sense 
we  could  do  a  lot  of  things  because  we  really  had  money  to 
work  with. 

GALM:   When  the  college  was  contemplating  a  move  to  Claremont, 
did  the  fact  that  you  and  the  art  department  were  so  active 
as  far  as  commissions  play  into  the  possiblity  of  its 
having  money  to  move? 

CORITA:   No,  it  never  was  that  much  money.   No.   I  think  it 
was  more  that--I  mean,  the  contribution  we  made  in  that  area 
was  more  that  we  had  sort  of  publicized  and  helped  to  create 
first,  I  think,  some  of  the  spirit  that  was  communicable. 
A  lot  of  spirit  had  always  been  going  on  before  the  art 
department  got  active  because  we  always  really  had  a  very 
creative  faculty.   But  I  think  we  gave  it  a  kind  of  push 
from  the  inside.   Also  I  think  we  could  make  it  public,  in 
a  way.   For  example,  the  science  department  or  the  language 
department,  though  they  were  good  departments  and  doing 
perhaps  as  effective  work  as  we  were  doing  with  their  students, 
had  no  way  of  making  themselves  known--somewhat  to  the  resent- 
ment, understandably,  of,  say,  the  science  teachers,  who 


would  go  to  a  convention,  and  if  they  said  they  were 
from  Immaculate  Heart — "Oh,  that's  that  art  college." 
[laughter]   And  they  didn't  like  being  called  an  art 
college.   So  that  was  difficult.   But,  no,  the  money  wasn't 
that  much. 

GALM:   Did  you  play  a  part  administratively  within  the 
college,  other  than  chairman  of  the  department?   Did  you 
serve  on  any  boards  of  note? 

CORITA:   There  was  something — what  was  it  called?   I  think 
it  was  called  the  academic  senate,  but  I  wouldn't  be  too 
sure--which  was  composed  of  the  heads  of  the  departments. 
And  we  discussed  programs  and  such  like. 

GALM:   Did  you  ever  enter  into  any  heavy  decision  making  for 
the  college? 

CORITA:   I  don't  know.   I  used  to  try  to  avoid  committees 
as  far  as  possible.   I'm  not  a  meeting  person.   But  there 
was  so  much  interchange  among  us  as  faculty  that  I  think  if 
there  was  any  contribution  made,  it  was  made  more  on  those 
terms  than  in  a  kind  of  political  fashion.   I  think  it's  a 
better  kind  of  politics. 

GALM:   When  did  you  get  into  the  book  publishing  business? 
What  was  the  first  book? 

CORITA:   Continuum  was  a  magazine — I  don't  know  if  it's 
still  in  existence--that  was  printed  in  Chicago,  which  was 
kind  of  a  quality  theological  popular  magazine,  probably  not 


too  popular,  but  good  quality.   I'm  trying  to  think  of  the 
man's  name  who  wrote  and  asked  me  if  I  would  do  a  section 
for  them  that  would  be  published  in  the  magazine  and  later 
would  be  published  as  a  book.   [doorbell  rings;  tape 
recorder  turned  off] 

GALM:   You  were  talking  about  Continuum.   Was  it  Continuum? 
CORITA:   Continuum,  yes.   And  so  then  they — I  think  Herder 
and  Herder;  there  was  some  connection  with  Herder  and 
Herder — and  then  they  published  it  in  a  book  form.   It  was 
called  Footnotes  and  Headlines .   [1967] 
GALM:   So  the  prayer  book  was  the  first  publication. 
CORITA:   That's  right.   That's  really  the  only  one  that  I've 
written,  if  you  would  call  it  written.   The  others  are  all 
books  which  I've  sort  of  coauthored,  by  the  fact  that  some- 
one wrote  the  words  and  I  did  the  visual  part. 

GALM:   How  did--like  the  To-Believe-In  series--how  did  you  get 
caught  up  with  the  poet? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  had  met  Joe  Pintauro--in  fact,  he  was  a 
priest  in  the  early  days,  when  I  was  going  to  New  York.   There 
was  sort  of  a  group  of  friends  in  New  York  whom  we'd  see  all 
the  time,  and  he  was  sort  of  in  that  group.   And  then  when 
he  began  working  in  the  publishing  department--he ' s  working 
for  an  advertising  agency  and  writes  on  the  side.   And  he — 
oh,  I  know.   I  used  to  answer  letters  on  things  that  I  had 
printed.   No,  that  doesn't  make  sense.   If  I  did  something 


for  a  company  or  an  organization,  I  would  usually  say, 
especially  in  the  days  before  I  got  paid,  do  500  extra  for 
us  or  300  extra  for  us.   And  then  we  would  give  these  away, 
or  I  would  write  letters  on  them.   And  I  had  answered  one 
of  his  letters  on  the  back  of  a  reproduction  of  one  of  my 
prints  which  says,  "To  believe  in  God  is  to  know  that  all 
the  rules  are  fair,  and  there  will  be  wonderful  surprises." 
And  he  just  got  all  inspired  by  that  and  started  to  write, 
wrote  me  a  great  letter--!  think  it  came  for  Easter--f illed 
with  all  kinds  of  confetti  and  what  have  you.   But  on  each 
page  he  had  written  his  own  "To  believe  in  God  is  .  .  .  ." 
And  that  was  the  book  [To  Believe  in  God] .   So  then  later  we 
got  the  idea  of  publishing  it. 
GALM:   What  about  the  other  book? 

CORITA:   There's  one  To  Believe  in  Man  and  one  To  Believe  in 

GALM:  The  other  question  I  had  is,  tell  me  about  Easter 
tomatoes.  Was  that  the  Heinz  Ketchup  series,  or  is  that 
something  else? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  did  a  print — Sam  Eisenstein  is  a  teacher  at 
[L.A.]  City  College,  an  English  teacher  who  writes.   He  had 
come  to  one  of  the  Mary's  Days  and  had  been  very  moved  and 
wrote  me  this  letter  saying  how  great  it  was.   And  he 
included  this  marvelous  thing  which  he  had  written  on  Mary; 
and  one  of  the  phrases  that  really  made  it  memorable  was 


"Mary  was  the  juiciest  tomato  of  all."   [laughter]   And  in 
the  context,  it  was  really  beautiful.   The  whole  thing  was 
gracefully  done.   So  I  made  a  print  from  it,  using  those 
words  [Tomato  (1967)).   Well,  I  was  aware  of  how  "tomato" 
was  used  colloquially,  but  I  felt--you  know,  at  that  time, 
language  was  taking  a  turn  [such  that]  you  could  hardly 
use  a  word  without  it  having  some  other  meaning.   And  I 
figured  that  wasn't  fair  for  people  to  destroy  words  that — 
and  at  that  time,  I  did  a  lot  of  research  into  tomato,  and 
Sam  did  some  for  me,  too,  and  found  out  that  it  really  had 
a  marvelous  history  and  was  connected  in  fact,  at  one  point, 
I'm  quite  sure,  with  the  mystical  rose. 


APRIL  13,  1976  and  APRIL  20,  1976 

GALM:   I  believe  you  were  tracing  the  origins  of  tomato 

and  the  mystical  rose. 

CORITA:   Yeah,  there  was  some  medieval  use  of  it  as  a 

religious  symbol  for  Our  Lady,  I  think.   I  hope  I'm  not 

making  this  up.   But  that  caused  just  more  trouble  than 

could  be  imagined  over  such  a  simple  thing,  because  people 

said,  you  know,  "That's  a  dirty  word.   How  can  you  use  that 

in  connection  with  the  Blessed  Mother?"   So  that  was  .... 

GALM:   Did  you  get  in  trouble  with  the  chancery  on  that,  or 

just  overall  criticism? 

CORITA:   Well,  they  had  a  funny  way  of  acting.   I  suppose 

it  was  very  normal,  because  it  was  a  very  hierarchical  way. 

I  never  got  into  trouble:   the  head  of  the  community  and 

the  head  of  the  college  got  into  trouble.   [laughter]   But 

they  [the  chancery]  wouldn't  bother  dealing  with  me. 

GALM:   How  would  the  head  of  the  college  and  the  head  of 

the  community  then  deal  with  you? 

CORITA:   Well,  fortunately,  they  liked  what  I  was  doing,  you 

see,  and  believed  that  we  should  be  able  to  do  what  we 

wanted  to  do.   So  they  would  tell  me  about  it,  and  we 

would  kind  of  groan  together,  and  .... 

GAUI:   Go  on. 

CORITA:   Yes.   But  nobody  said,  "Don't  do  that  anymore." 


GALM:   So  was  the  community  life  ever  a  restriction  on  your 
artistic  endeavor? 

CORITA:   No.   I  remember  we  had  a  few — two  people  I  think  of 
who  were  at  one  time  or  other  the  heads  of  the  community 
who  really  didn't  like  what  we  were  doing,  tastewise.   I 
mean,  it  wasn't  to  their  taste.   But  there  was  never  any 
kind  of  restriction  about  it.   And  I  thought  it  was  very 
interesting,  because  one  of  these  people  [Sister  Regina 
McPartlin]  is  now  working  in  a  hospital  and  came  to  me  the 
other  day  to  ask  me  to  design  three  rooms  in  the  hospital. 
So  if  you  wait  long  enough,  [laughter]  things  come  round. 
GALM:   Why  don't  we  stop  for  today? 

APRIL  20,  1976  [video  session] 

GALM:   We're  here  in  North  Hollywood  at  5126  Vineland  Avenue, 
and  we're  speaking  with  Corita  Kent  in  her  gallery  [Corita 
Prints].   And  with  us  are  two  members  of  the  gallery  family, 
Mary  Downey  (Mrs.  Frank  Downey)  and  Gladys  Collins.   I  think 
we  might  first  find  out  how  the  two  women  became  members  of 
Corita' s  gallery  family.   Mary,  when  did  you  become  active 
in  Corita' s  art  life? 

DOV^nsiEY:   Well,  Corita  first  called  me  in  about  1968  and 
asked  if  I  would  come  up  and  help  her  just  for  a  few  hours 
a  week.   I  was  glad  to  do  that  because  I've  loved  this  woman 
all  of  my  life  and  knew  how  hard  she'd  worked.   Before  that. 


the  students  had  helped  with  the  exhibits  going  out,  and 
friends  [had  helped],  but  this  seemed  to  be  a  bleak  period, 
where  everyone  had  abandoned  the  ship  for  some  reason. 
CORITA:   And  the  work  got  heavier. 

DOWNEY:   That's  right.   The  stacks — the  exhibits  went  up 
that  high.   So  I  went  up  at  first  for  just  a  few  hours  a 
week.   But  then  it  soon  increased,  because  during  that  time, 
right  at  that  time,  I  might  say,  the  change  in  the  community 
began  yeasting.   So  then  that's  when  I  began  actually 
working  directly  with  Corita  in  this  work. 
GALM:   Had  something  happened  in  your  own  personal  life 
that  allowed  you  the  freedom  at  this  point? 
DOWNEY:   Well,  I  had  lots  of  boys  at  home,  and  I  knew  when 
I  had  finished  with  the  boys  and  they  had  all  gone  on 
their  own  way  that  that  was  going  to  be  my  fun  work.   I  was 
going  up  to  help  Corita  at  the  art  department.   I  didn't 
know  what  I  could  do,  but  I  knew  I  could  do  something  to  be 
of  help — scrub  floors  or  something.   [laughter]   So  at  this 
time,  some  of  the  boys  had  left--one  was  in  Vietnam,  and  one 
had  left  unhappily,  so  I  was  kind  of  unhappy  myself.   So  it 
was  nice  to  have  that  break.   It  was  an  exciting  place  to  be. 
GALM:   Mrs.  Collins,  when  did  you  come  to  the  gallery? 
COLLINS:   Well,  I  had  known  the  both  of  them  for  a  long  time, 
and  I  wasn't  doing  anything,  and  [I  was]  feeling  useless, 
you  know,  like  I  should  do  something  for  humanity  or  something. 


So  I'd  help  somebody,  and  I  went  and  asked  Mary  if  I  might 

come  up  and  help  her  one  day  a  week.   And  in  about  two 

weeks  after  that,  I  was  helping  every  day. 

CORITA:   We  never  let  her  go,   [laughter] 

COLLINS:   We  moved  out  here,  and  from  then  on  ...  .   Oh, 

my  friends  are  so  envious  of  me,  to  have  such  a  beautiful 

job,  which  is  just  as  I  want,  you  know,  to  come  and  go  as 

I  please,  almost,  and  its  being  such  a  lovely  place.   "How 

did  [you]  fall  into  it?"  they  say. 

GALM:   At  that  time,  had  you  any  inkling  of  what  it  might 

become  for  you? 

COLLINS:   Oh,  not  at  all;  oh,  not  at  all.   I  had  no  thought 

of  it.   I  was  just  getting  tired  staying  home,  and  wanted 

to--I've  always  loved  Immaculate  Heart.   The  art  department 

there  was  an  inspiration,  really.   It  was  just  nice  to  be 

there,  and  I  thought  I'd  go  back,  be  with  the  young  people 

and  the  arts  and  that. 

GALM:   Corita,  when  did  you  meet  Gladys,  then? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  had  met  Gladys,  I'm  sure,  because  she  was 

a  longtime  friend  of  Mary's.   But  I  think  I--well,  I  was 

away,  actually,  when  she  came  to  help  Mary.   So  I  really 

met  her,  got  to  know  her,  when  she  was  working  in  the 


GALM:   But  didn't  you  know  her  also  as  a  student,  then? 

CORITA:   Yes,  I  knew  her  as  a  student,  true.   Those  were  big 


crowded  classes,  and  we  didn't  get  very  much  chance  to  have 

contact.   But  Gladys  was  in  classes  for  quite  a  while. 

COLLINS:   Eight  years. 

CORITA:   Eight  years,  during  those  times,  yes. 

COLLINS:   Adult  education. 

GALM:   How  large  were  those  classes? 

CORITA:   Well,  they  started  out  at  about--they  could  be 

sixty  or  seventy,  the  first  night.   They  weren't  always 

that  big  the  second  night.   [laughter] 

GALM:   What  did  you  do  to  scare  them  away? 

CORITA:   Well,  the  first  night  was  sort  of  an  indoctrination 

and  the  beginning  assignment. 

COLLINS:   Oh,  that  did  it. 

CORITA:   That  did  it.   I  remember  once  we  had  a  mathematician 

who  did  a  great  deal  of  traveling  in  his  work,  and  he  had 

to  miss  classes  once  in  a  while.   He  finally  came  and  said, 

— he  was  doing  his  work  on  the  plane  going  back  and  forth, 

what  could  be  done  in  a  small  space — and  he  said,  "When 

I  came  to  take  the  course,  I  didn't  know  it  was  going  to 

take  my  whole  life."   [laughter]   But  the  weak  ones  dropped 

out  quickly. 

GALM:   So  you  must  have  been  a  very  strong  one,  Gladys, 

because  you  stayed  for  six  or  eight  years.   [laughter] 

CORITA:   She  was  a  strong  one,  yes. 

GALM:   What  was  your  feeling,  the  first  assignment  period 


that  .  .  .  ? 

COLLINS:   Well,  as  she  said,  the  first  day,  she  would  tell 

them  a  big  assignment,  and  that  would  scare  a  lot  of  people. 

But  I  thought  maybe  I  could  get  [by]  with  not  so  much. 

DOWNEY:   She  being  a  teacher  knew  some  of  the  tricks. 

GALM:   So  you  thought  perhaps  there  was  a  little  bit  of 

bluff  there. 

COLLINS:   I  thought  there  was  a  little  break  I  could  get 

by  with. 

GALM:   Over  the  years,  over  the  time  that  you  were  a 

student,  what  assignment  stood  out  as  being  the  most  exciting? 

COLLINS:   Making  banners,  I  believe.   Corita  had  charge  of 

those  banners,  and  during  several  years  at  Immaculate 

Heart,  they  made  huge  banners.   They  would  have  parades,  and 

they  were  tall--they  were  as  tall  as  a  room.   We'd  make 

those,  and  very  often  we'd  make  a  story,  in  the  banner,  of 

some  kind. 

GALM:   Did  you  participate  in  Mary's  Day? 

COLLINS:   Yes,  yes.   I  did. 

GALM:   Can  you  describe  what  it  was  like  to  be  a  participant? 

COLLINS:   Well,  very  exhilarating,  very  exciting,  color  and 

happiness.   And  everybody  was  happy,  walking  up  the  hill  with 

their  banners  flying,  and  color,  and  sitting  down  and  eating 

bread.   I  don't  know  whether  they  had  wine  or  not. 

CORITA:   Yes,  we  had  wine,  I  think. 


COLLINS:   I  don't  remember  that. 

DOWNEY:   It  was  real,  wasn't  it? 

COLLINS:   Yes,  it  was  a  spontaneous  movement,  I  believe. 

I  don't  think  anybody--it  was  never  rehearsed. 

CORITA:   No. 

COLLINS:   They  just  did  it,  and  they  did  what  they  felt 

like  doing. 

CORITA:   There  was  a  lot  of  planning  behind  it,  but  it 

wasn't  .... 

COLLINS:   Oh,  I'm  sure. 

CORITA:   But  the  actions  weren't  rehearsed. 

GALM:   Why  did  you  need  a  gallery  at  this  point? 

CORITA:   Well,  at  that  time,  the  art  department  was  getting 

more  and  more  crowded,  partly  because  of  the  folk  art 

collection  and  partly  because  the  students  were  increasing. 

We  finally  got  down  to  having  one  big  room  where  everything 

happened.   So  Mary  and  Glady  would  be  wrapping  exhibits  to 

go  or  taking  care  of  their  business,  and  the  lights  would  go 

out  for  that  class  to  show  a  film.   So  it  was  partly  crowded 

and  partly  the  amount  of  activity  there.   And  we  decided 

that  it  would  be  better  for  the  prints  to  be  out  someplace 

else.   It  was  at  that  time  that  Mary  and  Frank  located  this 

place,  which  was  close  to  their  home.   We  thought  of  it  at 

that  time  just  as  a  storage  space,  and  then  it  gradually 

worked  into  a  gallery. 


GALM:   Were  you  having  any  problem  with  security  of  the 

prints  at  Immaculate  Heart  at  that  point? 

CORITA:   No,  not  really.   I  think  we  used  to  have  a  kind  of 

joking  curse  over  the  door  that — I  mean,  it  was  purely 

mental — that  anyone  who  took  anything  would  really  feel 

bad  about  it. 

GALM:   For  days. 

CORITA:   Right,  right.   [laughter]   No,  it  was  really 

amazing,  but  we  didn't  have  that  problem. 

GALM:   Or  even,  I  mean,  the  handling--perhaps  too  much 


CORITA:   Well,  they  were  always  in  cabinets  and  fairly  safe, 

or  up  on  the  wall  where  people  could  look  at  them. 

GALM:   I  see.   Well,  once  you  had  decided  on  the  property, 

Mary,  how  did  you  go  about  creating  a  gallery? 

DOWNEY:   Well,  just  as  Gladys  said  earlier,  it  just  evolved. 

Because  first  we  kept  pouring  the  stuff  in  from  the  art 

department  up  here,  and  our  boys  helped  and  some  students 

helped  and  Frank  helped.   And  it  was  just  like  Bekins 

storage:   we  got  a  big  truck  and  just  carried  them  in  and 

carried  them  in.   We've  taken  pictures  of  them,  of  the 

gallery  in  those  early  days--just  stores,  stacks  of  these 

prints.   And  we  brought  the  drawers  right  out  from  the 

cabinets  up  there,  rolled  the  drawers  out.   And  then  the 

boys  brought  the  shelves  and  they  drove  them  right  in  here. 


And  then  the  other  prints — Frank  made  all  those  cabinets, 
those  levels  of  shelves.   And  we  got  the  idea  to  make 
boxes,  so  we  made  our  own  boxes,  with  staplers  and  such, 
and  numbered  them  and  all.   And  we  were  just  so  much 
intent  on  that,  on  caring  for  the  prints  and  getting  them 
in  an  order,  that  I  don't  think  we  ever  thought  of  it  as  a 

COLLINS:   We  just  kept — one  thing  would  happen,  and  then 
something  else,  and  we  would  change. 

GALM:   What  prompted  you  to  start  thinking  of  it  as  a  gallery? 
DOWNEY:   Well,  I  think  some  of  the  people  did  know  we  had 
moved  here  with  Corita's  prints.   That's  the  attraction, 
you  must  remember.   And  they  kept  coming  in.   And  then  I 
can't  stand  a  place  when  it's  ugly.   And  I  think  Corita's 
prints  are  so  beautiful  that  they  really  deserve  a  beautiful 
background.   So  Corita  paid  to  have — we  asked  her,  and  she 
said,  "Just  go  ahead,"  so  we  had  it  painted,  we  all  pitched 
in  and  painted;  and  then  later  on,  we  had  the  floor  laid, 
and  it  came  to  be  what  it  is  today.   The  background  is  nice, 
and  it's  not  really  very  pretentious;  but  it  is  an  atmosphere 
like  Corita  and  her  prints  are,  that  everybody  feels  welcome. 
They're  not  put  off,  like  a  fancy  gallery  might.   They  feel 
welcome  and  at  home  and  able  to  look  at  the  prints,  no 
pressure  for  them  to  buy.   We  know  they'll  buy;  [laughter] 
they  can't  help  but  buy. 


GALM:   This  is  an  iffy  question.   Do  you  think  the  gallery 

would  have  its  same  popularity — or  not  popularity,  but 

perhaps  atmosphere — if  it  were  located  on  La  Cienega  or 

in  Beverly  Hills? 

CORITA:   I  think  that's  an  easy  question  to  answer.   I 

think  it  would  have  the  same  atmosphere  if  the  same  people 

were  in  charge.   I  think  it's  these  two  people  and  their 

helpers  who  are  behind  the  scenes  right  now  who  really  make 

the  place,  rather  than  the  address.   I  don't  think  we  could 

ever  get  fancy.   [laughter]   We  can  be  beautiful,  but  not 


GALM:   At  this  point,  were  you  represented  by  any  galleries 

in  Los  Angeles? 

CORITA:   Yes.   Early  on,  when  I  started  to  make  prints,  we 

began  sending  them  out  to  galleries.   We  usually  had  about 

twenty-five  to  thirty  galleries  that  handled  the  prints 

and  would  have  shows,  perhaps  once  a  year,  when  I  would  do 

a  new  set  of  prints. 

GALM:   Did  you  have  any  outlet,  though,  in  Los  Angeles, 

other  than  Immaculate  Heart? 

CORITA:   No.   That  was  its  own  good  outlet. 

GALM:   So  what  were  the  first  duties,  then,  as  far  as  the 

gallery?   You  created  storage  for  the  prints,  but  then  what? 

DOWNEY:   Well,  that  did  take  some  time  and  some  doing. 

And  then  Corita--this  Plexiglas  frame  that  is  so  beautiful 


combined  with  Corita's  prints  ....   We  asked  Corita  if  we 
could  have  some  frames  to  hang,  and  she  said  yes,  but  she 
said  she  didn't  want  us  to  get  involved  in  frames  because 
she  didn't  want  us  to  work  too  hard.   But  we  chose  to  get 
involved  in  frames.   And  they  caused  us  many  headaches,  the 
frames.   But  so  we  did  begin  hanging  them.   And  then  people 
did  keep  coming  in.   And  then  your  big--it  was  Jack,  a 
friend  of  Corita's,  Jack  Mullen,  who  has  since  died,  but  he 
was  a  super  swell  guy.   It  was  his  idea  that  as  long  as  it's 
going  to  be  a  little  gallery  that  Corita  should  have  good 
publicity.   He  was  a  PR  man  for  the  movies,  and  he  had  a 
beautiful  spread  in  the  L. A.  Times  when  we  decided  it  would 
be  a  gallery.   We  had  nobody  who  knew  we  were  here.   That 
was  a  very,  very  lovely  time.   And  it  had  a  great  deal  to 
do,  its  success,  in  a  sense,  with  Jack,  who  had  the  know-how 
and  the  gift  to--he  wanted  Corita  to  have  the  best. 
GALM:   Do  you  recall  the  date  of  that  opening,  the  year,  at 

CORITA:   It  must  have  been  about  '70,  I  would  say. 
DOWNEY:   Yes,  it  was. 
CORITA:   In  '69  or  '70. 

GALM:   When  you  first  started  using  the  Plexiglas,  was  this 
before  they  became  sort  of  standard  sizes,  or  did  you  have 
to  actually  have  it  custom-made? 
DOWNEY:   It  was  very  new  then. 


CORITA:   And  hard,  because  I'd  forget  to  make  things 
standard  size.   [laughter] 

DOWNEY:   We  feel  she  shouldn't  be  bothered  with  that  limita- 
tion either. 

GALM:   So  since  that  time,  it  is  not  even  a  consideration 
when  you  do  a  print. 
CORITA:   No,  no. 

GALM:   It's  just  the  design  itself  that  determines  the  size, 
or  ...  ? 

CORITA:   Yes,  it's  sort  of,  I  suppose,  the  way  you  feel  at 
the  moment,  how  you  feel  about  the  design,  what  size  it 
should  be. 

DOWNEY:   Well,  and  too,  people  have  asked  her,  if  she's  done 
little  ones,  "Oh,  why  don't  you  make  big  ones."   She  used  to 
make  really  a  lot  of  big  ones,  the  size  of  this  one,  A  Man 
You  Can  Lean  On.   And  then  she's  made  little  bitty  ones,  as 
tiny  as  the  ones  to  the  left,  there.   So  in  one  way,  you 
try  to  accommodate  people  who  ask  you;  and  in  another  way, 
she  does  what  she  feels  like. 

GALM:  Does  it  have  anything  to  do  with  being  able  to  offer 
something  that  is  less  expensive  than,  say,  a  print  of  this 

CORITA:   Well,  it's  not  always  that  the  print  is  more 
expensive  if  it's  bigger.   That's  not  always  the  case.   But 
the  frames  are  always  more  expensive  if  they're  bigger.   So 


that's  a  big  item.   Often  the  frames  are  more  expensive 

than  the  prints. 

GALM:   What  type  of  person  comes  here  to  the  gallery?   Can 

you  sort  of  give  a  general  description? 

DOWNEY:   Really,  it's  varied.   Teachers  bring  their  students 

here,  elementary  on  through  high  school;  and  students 

themselves,  art  students  from  the  colleges,  come  and  just 

practically  spend  a  day  here.   And  we  have  movie  actresses 

and  TV  people,  engineers  and  artists  themselves.   And  there 

are  a  number  of  Oriental  architects:   some  come  from  San 

Francisco,  and  this  is  their  favorite  stop  when  they  come 

down  on  a  business  trip  here.   And  Corita's  work  is  admired 

and  respected  by  I  think  a  wide,  wide  spectrum  of  old,  young, 

poor,  rich.   It  has  in  a  way  a  very  universal  appeal,  it  seems, 

from  who  comes  in  here. 

COLLINS:   Yes,  oh,  yes,  they  do.   People  who  are — they  don't 

know  very  much  about  art  at  all.   They  are  not  art  collectors, 

or  they  don't  know  very  much  about  art,  but  they  just  like 

this.   It's  vivid,  and  it  just  suits  the  people. 

DOWNEY:   And  others  are  very  sophisticated  art  collectors. 

COLLINS:   Oh,  yes. 

DOWNEY:   So  it  is  a  kind  of  a  broad  spectrum. 

GALM:   Do  they  want  to  know  a  lot  about  the  artist? 

DOWNEY:   Oh,  yes,  yes.   It  means  a  lot  to  them  to  know  about 



GALM:   What  was  Corita  like  as  a  young  child,  as  a  member  of 
the  family,  Mary? 

DOWNEY:   Well,  I'm  prejudiced,  because  I've  said  she's  my 
favorite  person.   She  was  delightful.   She  was  the  next  to 
the  youngest.   So  at  this  time  I'm  speaking  of,  in  Canada, 
she  was  the  youngest.   So  Mother  would  give  her  to  us,  the 
older  ones,  on  vacation.   We'd  take  her  off;  we'd  play  in 
the  woods  up  in  Canada.   And  when  we'd  bring  her  back,  or 
when  we'd  go  back  to  school.  Mother  has  often  said  later 
that  she  couldn't  do  anything  with  her  because  she  was  so 
spoiled.   But  she  was  a  little  pixie  kind  of  a  young  girl. 
And  then  as  a  girl  in  high  school,  when  she  graduated. 
Mother  made  her  a  beautiful  white  organdy  dress;  I  curled  her 
hair  for  her,  and  she  really  was  beautiful.   We  have  the 
picture  of  her — just  lovely.   And  always  a  lilt  about  her. 
She  had  a  great  group  of  high  school  girlfriends,  who  she 
had  such  fun  with.   They  had  a  car--one  of  the  girls  had 
a  car  in  those  days--and  that  was  pretty  racy,  to  have  a 
car  with  the  rumble  seat  in.   They  would  drive  to  high  school 
in  the  car,  and  there  would  be  a  standard  argument  in  the 
morning:   Mother  would  want  her  to  wear  a  sweater,  and  she 
would  not  wear  a  sweater.   She  was  a  free  spirit,  I  think. 
GALM:   What  was  the  family's  reaction  to  her  decision  to 
become  a  nun? 
DOWNEY:   Well,  you  see,  our  oldest  brother — first,  our  oldest 


sister  had  already  become  a  nun.   And  then  our  brother,  who 

was  the  next  in  line,  was  becoming  a  priest.   So  I  think 

with  Mother  and  Daddy,  it  was  probably  in  that  day  they 

were  very  happy. 

CORITA:   A-OK.   [laughter] 

DOWNEY:   In  those  days,  that  was  supposed  to  be  the  highest, 

the  bestest  that  you  could  do. 

GALM:   How  do  you  arrange  your  hours  here  in  the  gallery, 


COLLINS:   From  eleven  to  four,  and  we  are  very  free  to  come 

and  go.   If  we  have  something  else  to  do  for  the  day,  we 

just  speak  to  the  other  one,  and  we  have  another  helper,  too, 

Evelyn  [Neuendorff ] ,  who  comes  in  on  Saturdays.   We  don't  like 

to  work  on  Saturdays,  so  she  works,  comes  in  Saturdays.   But 

usually,  one  of  us  will  take  one  day  off  a  week  sometime  to 

do  something  else  that  we  want  to  do.   And  one  will  come  a 

little  early,  and  the  other  one  come  later  and  go  home.   It's 

very  free,  very  easy. 

GALM:   Are  you  open  year-round? 

COLLINS:   No,  no. 

DOWNEY:   Yes,  yes. 

GALM:   Is  the  gallery  open  year-round? 

COLLINS:   Oh,  the  gallery  is  open  year-round,  but  we  are 

not  always  here,  both  of  us.   Mary  takes  three  months 

vacation.   [laughter]   I  take  a  month,  maybe  two,  a  different 


time.   I'll  take  a  month  at  a  time. 

DOWNEY:   Glady  is  very  faithful  to  stay.   She  really  does 
carry  the  whole.   We've  left  her  sometimes  with  a  whole 
series  of  new  prints  to  get  out  .  .  . 
COLLINS:   .  .  .  and  new  exhibits.   That  was  one. 
DOWNEY:   And  new  exhibits.   And  she's  carried  on,  and  .  .  . 
GALM:   When  did  you  decide  to  expand  the  activities  of 
the  gallery,  or  the  activities,  really,  of  your  art  work, 
to  include  greeting  cards  and  your  High  Cards? 
CORITA:   Well,  the  high  cards  were  actually  the  fourth 
book  that  I  did  with  Harper  and  Row  [High  Cards] .   We 
simply  decided  not  to  bind  them,  not  to  bind  the  pages,  and 
have  them  just  be  cards  and  printed  on  the  back  with 
postcard  material.   So  that  was  what  happened  with  the  High 
Cards.   I  had  already  done  three  little  books  with  them: 
To  Believe  in  God,  To  Believe  in  Man,  and  To  Believe  in 
Things.   And  then  some  of  the  other  cards  were  done  when  I 
was  staying  with  Celia  Hubbard.   I  stayed  with  her  when  I 
went  back  to  live  in  Boston  for  that  first  year.   She 
operated  a  gallery  shop  called  the  Botolph  Group.   And  I 
had  some  of  my  prints  reproduced  for  cards  and  did  some 
original  cards  for  them.   They  were  sold  from  the  store, 
and  then  they  also  began  to  distribute  them.   So  that  was 
really  the  beginning.   And  then  another  couple  picked  them 
up.   The  greeting  card  company  business  is  very  difficult. 


And  now  I'm  going  to  have  them  with  the  American  Artist 
Group,  so  they  will  take  care  of  the  distribution.   So 
this  is  the  way  things  happen.   They  start  in  a  bungling 
way  and  eventually  get  shaped  up  so  they  work — or  get 

GALM:   How  often  do  you  come  back  to  North  Hollywood  and  to 
the  gallery? 

CORITA:   I'm  usually  back  here  at  least  once  a  year,  some- 
times twice.   When  I  have  my  prints,  I  have  them  sent  out 
here  to  sign  them.   I  have  a  group  of  prints  ready  for  a 
show  the  last  of  this  month.   And  other  times  when  I  come 
out,  I  just  have  a  sense  that  it's  time  to  come,  and  then 
things  happen  around  that  coming  that  probably  wouldn't 
happen  if  I  weren't  here.   So  it  has  worked  out  very  well 
that  way.   And  then  I  go  back  for  a  little  peace  and  quiet 
and  come  back  again. 

GALM:   How  do  you  arrange  the  exhibit  when  you  show  new 
things?   Do  you  take  everything  down?   Or  what  do  you  do? 
CORITA:   Well,  it  depends.   I  think  the  present  plan  is  to 
take  everything  down  and  start  again  for  this  exhibit.   We'll 
play  around  with  perhaps  having  some  of  the--a  very  few  of 
the  older  prints  because  I  think  people  are  interested  in 
seeing  what  happened  in  the  beginning,  back  in  the  fifties. 
DOWNEY:   We  did  have  a  fun  Never-Never  show. 
CORITA:   Never-Again. 


DOWNEY:   Never-Again  show.   So  many  people  cooperated,  who 

loaned  their  old,  old  prints  of  Corita's.   They  weren't 

for  sale,  of  course,  but  people  enjoyed  that  so  much  because 

many  of  the  people  who  had  come  to  know  Corita  in  her  later 

years  had  no  idea  of  the  quality  or  the  type  of  her  design 

in  the  early  days.   And  they  were  so  generous,  because 

you're  always  running  a  risk,  as  Glady  well  knows,  in 

loaning  your  precious  prints.   [laughter] 

GALM:   Why  does  she  well  know?   Why  do  you  well  know? 

COLLINS:   Well,  one  sold  that  was  not  supposed  to  have 

been  sold.   [laughter] 

DOWNEY:   Not  at  our  gallery.   At  a  gallery  up  north. 

GALM:   I  see.   Well,  perhaps  we  could  go  into  the  other  room 

and  look  at  some  of  your  prints. 

CORITA:   Okay.   [tape  recorder  turned  off] 

GALM:   Well,  you've  laid  out  some  prints,  Corita. 

CORITA:   Here  we  are. 

GALM:   Why  don't  we  look  at  this  early  one?   This  is  the 

first  one,  right?   [The  Lord  Is  with  Thee] 

CORITA:   Well,  no,  it  isn't  actually  the  first  one.   It's 

probably  about  the  third  or  fourth  one. 

GALM:   Oh,  this  isn't  the  one  that  you  did  that  summer? 

CORITA:   Yes,  it  is.   Underneath  is  another  print  which  I 

had  done  that  summer,  and  I  had  made  a  couple  of  prints 

before  I  took  that  class  and  one  other  print  in  the  class 


before  this  one.   But  this  was  the  one  I  revised  into  this 

when  I  got  home,  after  summer  school  was  over.   And  I  think 

it  was  really  this  one  that  started  me  exhibiting  because 

we  sent  it  to  the  County  Museum  show  and  it  won  the  first 

prize,  and  then  we  sent  it  to  the  State  Fair  and  it  won  the 

first  prize.   We  sent  it  here  and  there,  and  it  would  either 

win  a  first  prize  or  not  be  accepted  in  the  show.   [laughter] 

GALM:   So  it  was  an  either-or  situation. 

CORITA:   So  those  were  the  days  that  we  learned  that  you 

didn't  base  your  reputation  or  your  confidence  on  what  the 

jurors  said.   I  think  that  was  a  marvelous  lesson  for  me 

and  the  students,  too:   that  it  didn't  have  anything  to 

do  with  the  quality  of  the  print,  what  the  juries  said.   It 

could  be  the  same  print,  and  some  juries  would  turn  it  down, 

while  others  would  think  it  was  good.   But  this  did  get  me 

started  on  the  printing. 

GALM:   You  have  moved  so  far  away  from  this  approach.   Is  it 

still  a  favorite,  or  how  do  you  feel  about  it? 

CORITA:   A  lot  of  the  early  ones  I  really  can't  bear  to 

look  at,  but  this  is  not — not  too  bad.   To  me  now. 

GALM:   What  is  the  quality  that  you  don't  like? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  feel  that  it's  extremely  derivative.   It 

was  in  my  very  learning  days.   It's  very  Byzantine,  and  I 

think  it  doesn't  have  much  of  me  in  it.   So  it  feels  awkward 

and  searching. 


GALM:   Sort  of  representative  of  what  "religious  art" 
(quote-unquote)  was  doing  at  that  time? 

CORITA:   Well,  no,  it  really  wasn't,  because  religious  art 
was  at  that  time  very  sort  of  late  nineteenth-century,  but 
a  bad  nineteenth-century  quality,  sort  of  the  last  unflowering 
of  the  Renaissance.   I  went  back  earlier  to  try  to  find 
something  that  was  stronger,  and  that's  what  got  me  into 
the  Byzantine  era,  where  at  least  there  was  strength  and 
beauty.   I  thought  that  was  a  better  thing  to  be  working 

GALM:   Were  the  French  doing  much  in  the  Byzantine  style 
at  that  time? 
CORITA:   Yes,  yes. 

GALM:   I'm  trying  to  think  of  the  sculptor. 
CORITA:   Marvelous  sculpture  on  the  cathedrals. 
GALM:   No,  no.   I  mean  in  the  nineteen-f if ties. 
CORITA:   Oh,  in  the  nineteen-f if ties .   I'm  trying  to  ...  . 
GALM:   Is  it  [Lambert]  Rucki? 

CORITA:   The  church  at  Assy  was  built  either  in  the  fifties 
or  early  sixties,  which  combined  a  group  of  artists  to  work 
in  a  single  church.   Then  I  think  it  was  [Henri]  Matisse's 
chapel  [Chapelle  du  Rosaire,  Vence] .   Was  that  in  the  fifties? 
I  think  so.   And  those  were  .... 

GALM:   Now,  this  is  another  one  from  the  early  period. 
CORITA:   That's  the  same  era.   And  that's  beginning  to  have 


a  little  something  because  this  was  really  meant  to  be  a 
picture  of  the  Christ  with  a  home  in  his  hand,  as  sort  of 
a  house  blessing,  and  it  has  the  word  benedictio,  which  is 
for  blessing.   [Benedictio]   And  I  tried  to  do  a  little 
drawing  of  the  Eames  house.   So  it's  sort  of  the  modern 
sneaking  in,  [laughter]  which  is  in  itself  an  old  tradition 
because  in  the  early  paintings,  if  you  looked  out  the  window, 
or  if  you  looked  down  in  the  left-hand  corner,  you  could 
almost  tell  what  was  coming  in  the  next  period.   I  think 
that  almost  told  what  was  coming  in  the  next  period  for  me. 
GALM:   In  our  other  discussions,  you  mentioned  that  one  of 
the  professors  at  Immaculate  Heart  had  reacted  to — I 
believe  it  was  to  this  work — the  fact  that  it  had  contained 
words.   And  this  is  perhaps  what  really  set  you  to  explore 
further  in  this  direction. 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think,  first  of  all,  he  was  so  choice  with 
his  compliments  that  it  was  a  rare  thing,  and  I  think  that 
must  have  stuck  with  me,   I  didn't  think — as  I  think  I 
mentioned  to  you — I  didn't  think  at  that  time,  "Ah,  now 
I  will  do  pictures  with  words  in  them."   But  I  think  that 
was  in  one.   And  in  the  early  poster  making,  I  think  those 
two  things  came  together  in  the  picture  making. 
GALM:   That  was  Doctor  ,  ,  . 

CORITA:   .  .  .  Dr.  Schardt.   so  those  were  the  early  days. 
GALM:   Then  what  happened?   [laughter] 


CORITA:   Then  what  happened! 

GALM:   I'm  going  to  let  you  just  sort  of  at  random  pick 
them,  and  perhaps  we  can  discuss. 

CORITA:   All  right.   This  is  from  about  four,  five  years 
back,  perhaps.   [I^  Love  You  Very]   I  think  I've  never  lost 
the  words,  except  occasionally  I  do  prints  without  words. 
But  this  was  when  I  moved  back  into  the  era  of  great,  free 
brushstrokes,  which  I  was  doing  in  the  early  sixties.   This 
is  a  much  older  print  than  that  without  words.   [Let  Him 
Easter  in  Us]   But  in  between  these  two  came  many  of  the  ones 
that  had  rather  commercial  letters,  which  in  fact  were  taken 
from  billboards.   Let's  see  if  we  can  find  one.   I'm  trying 
to  reach  that  one  that  says,  "The."   These  two,  yes.   In  some 
cases  they  were  billboards;  in  some  cases  they  were  words  cut 
out  of  magazines  and  photographed,  and  sometimes  photographed 
with  a  curve  in  them  so  that  when  I  projected  them  and  made 
the  stencils,  they  seemed  to  have  that  kind  of  movement.   And 
there  were  two  pictures,  one  quite  similar  to  this.   The  other 
one  says,  "Who  came  out  of  the  water?"   [Who  Came  out  of  the 
Water]   And  this  one  just  says,  as  you  see,  "Ha!"   [Ha] 
GALM:   Now,  you  were  beginning  to  print  on  a  different  type 
of  paper,  too. 

CORITA:   Yes,  these  are  on  pellon,  which  is  a  3M  product. 
It's  actually  cloth  material,  used  for  clothes  lining,  like 
men's  coats,  in  tailoring. 


GALM:   Now  was  this  something  that  you  discovered,  or  were 
other  printers  using  it  for  production? 

CORITA:   I  don't  know  that  anybody  else  used  it.   They  were 
using  rice  paper  and  similar  papers,  but  this  seemed  so  very 
practical  and  was  much  cheaper  than  the  rice  paper  and  much 

GALM:   Did  it  give  your  serigraphs  a  different  quality? 
CORITA:   The  paint  does  look  different  on  them.   When  you  take 
a  slicker  surface  or  a  harder  surface,  the  paint  has  a  more 
brittle  quality — a  brighter,  sharper  quality,  whereas  these, 
no  matter  how  sharp  the  line  is,  the  paint  has  a  soft  look. 
So  there  is  that  difference.   This  is  one  [untitled]  I  did 
for  L.A.  city,  for  their  celebration  of  the  Bicentennial. 
So  it  was  done  in  Boston  for  L.A.   This  whole  pile,  right  in 
here,  are  prints  that  I  did  as  commissions  for  groups  who 
wanted  to  raise  money.   This  one  was  for  the  Chavez  people, 
taking  one  of  Cesar  Chavez's  statements  ["He  gives  us  the 
gift  of  life  .  .  .  ."]  and  making  an  edition.   Sometimes  I 
write  the  edition  on  and  sometimes  I  don't.   [laughter] 
GALM:   Did  they  usually  come  to  you,  the  people  with  the 
cause,  and  say,  "Would  you  do  this  for  us?"? 
CORITA:   Yes,  yes.   Right.   And  then  sometimes — it  depends 
on  the  group.   If  I  feel  that  it's  a  group  that  has  no  money 
and  can't  raise  any  money,  then  I  will  do  it  for  them  for 
nothing;  and  if  it's  a  group  that  can  afford  to  pay,  then 


they  pay.   So  it's  almost  as  if  they're  paying  to  help  the 
other  people.   And  this  was  a  group  of  prints  done  for  the 
Hunger  Walk.   [International  Walk  for  Development,  May  8-9] 
GALM:   Is  the  dove  out  of  your  toy  collection  or  your  folk 
art  collection? 

CORITA:   No,  the  dove  is  from  my  own  apartment.   It's  a 
beautiful  wooden  dove  made  by  probably  a  Maine  primitive. 
It's  a  lovely,  very  roughly  hewn  wood.   I've  used  it  in  a  new 
print  this  year  because  it's  just  a  favorite  of  mine. 
GALM:   Now,  from  the  older  ones  to,  say,  the  more  bold  ones, 
is  there  a  difference  in  technique,  or  is  it  just  in  inter- 

CORITA:   Just  in  interpretation,  yes.   The  technique  is  the 

GALM:   So  that  hasn't  changed  at  all. 

CORITA:   Well,  to  a  certain  extent.   Some  of  these  were  done 
with  a  cut  paper  stencil,  and  others  were  done  by  painting  a 
stencil  with  glue  onto  the  screen.   So  there  can  be  a  rougher 
texture,  as  in  these,  and  again  in  the  new  one.   Well,  in  this 
one,  perhaps,  but  also  in  the  close-up  strokes,  you  can  see 
here  that  this  actually  was  done  originally  as  a  painted  stroke, 
[Bicentennial  Print]   And  then  it  was--I  now  have  someone  do 
my  printing  for  me.   So  he  takes  my  small  original  and  blows 
it  up,  so  that  it  has  left  a  painterly  quality  to  it.   But 
that  can  also  be  achieved  by  the  brush  stencil  technique. 


whereas  the  cut  stencil  technique  comes  out  sharp  and  clear 
like  that. 

GALM:   Do  you  have  any  of  the--this  is  not  watercolor  here, 
is  it? 

CORITA:   No. 

GALM:   Do  you  have  any  of  the  ones  that  were  based  on 

CORITA:   Yes,  I  think  we  have  some  in  here  that  are  done. 
Maybe,  Glady,  those  two.   One  is  a  print,  and  one  is  a  water- 
color.   This  is  a  watercolor  [untitled]  from  which  a  print 
could  be  made,  except  that  the  shading  would  not  show:   they 
would  turn  out  as  solid  colors.   And  I'll  show  you  one  in 
which — that's  right.   [Bird  of  the  Rainbow]   Now,  this  was  a 
painting  that  I  had  done  as  a  watercolor.   And  then  I  had  a 
print  made  from  it.   And  you  can  see  the  difference,  that  the 
gradation  of  colors  is  missing.   In  some  cases  it  gets  a  little 
heavier  because  the  camera  picks  up  just  the  very  strong  things 
and  tends  to  drop  out  the  weaker.   So  it  really  becomes  differ- 
ent because  it's  a  different  medium.   But  if  I  feel  that  it's 
going  to  work  all  right,  I  can  use  it.   And  let's  see.   Now, 
this  is  one  made  from  a  photograph  with  a  screen  as  you  use  to 
reproduce  photographs  and  then  simply  printed  with  a  silk 
screen.   [Growing] 
GALM:   Is  it  one  of  your  own  photographs? 

CORITA:   Yes.   And  this  is  one  of  the  brushier-looking  ones. 


GALM:   Let's  see,  when  was  that  done?   About  the  nineteen- 

seventies  or  ...  ? 

CORITA:   This  was  one  of  the  seventies,  I  think,  yes. 

GALM:   Now,  you  were  saying  that  you've  sort  of  gone  out 

of  this.   This  would  be  in  your  rainbow  series? 

CORITA:   That's  right. 

GALM:   And  you  sort  of  moved  away  from  that  somewhat? 

CORITA:   Yes.   In  fact  the  new  ones,  which  I  have  over  here-- 

now,  these  are  the  brand-new  ones,  just  four  of  the  set 

which  I'll  have  in  the  show  Sunday.   And  as  you  can  see-- 

well,  the  camera  can't  see,  but  .... 

GALM:   The  camera  can't  see.   What  are  they? 

CORITA:   We  can  see  that  this  [Our  Original  Nature:   shell 

writing  #7]  is  a  lavender  and  a  gray,  which  is  very  different 

from  this,  which  is  the  straight  rainbow  array  of  colors,  the 

very  vivid  primaries.   So  these  are  much  subtler  in  color, 

closer  in  value. 

GALM:   Now  are  these  again  making  use  of  photographs? 

CORITA:   Yes.   These  four,  and  about  three  or  four  of  the 

other  new  ones,  are  done  from  photographs  of  shells.   In  fact, 

this  one  [Now  Is^  Enough:   shell  writing  #8]  is  done  from  a 

shell  which  is  about,  oh,  I  would  say,  three-eighths  of  an  inch 

big,  and  then  just  simply  blown  up,  so  that  it  has  a  rather 

monumental  quality.   This  one  [Our  Original  Nature]  has  an 

even  more  monumental  quality,  I  think.   It  could  be  the  picture 


of  the  moon  or  the  world,  or  some  other  planet — or,  as  it 
was,  a  small  shell.   That  was  probably  about  an  inch-large 
shell.   And  then  these  two  are  sections  from  a  shell.   [I^  Am 
the  Sacred  Words  of  the  Earth:   shell  writing  #3;  You  Are 
Alive:   shell  writing  #4]   I  don't  think  that  in  any  of  them 
you  would  know  that  they  were  shells,  because  they're  sections 
of  them.   But  I  was  fascinated  by  the  design  on  them  and 
thought  they  would  make  good  prints.   And  I  call  them  shell 
writings.   This  is  my  writing;  this  is  the  shell  writing. 
GALM:   I  see.   How  many  are  in  the  series? 
CORITA:   There  are  about  six  or  eight,  I  think. 

GALM:   You've  always,  of  course,  incorporated  your  own  writing 
on  almost  every  one,  haven't  you,  in  some  way? 
CORITA:   Except  for  the  ones  when  I  was  using  the  magazine 
words  or  the  billboard  letters,  yes.   And  then,  as  in  the 
case  with  the  "magical  friend,"  of  different  kinds  of  script, 
of  printing.   [You  Can  Never  Lose  Me] 

GALM:  Why  do  you  like  to  use  your  own  writing,  other  than 
it  being,  of  course,  the  most  intimate  expression  of  your- 
self, personal  expression? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  really  think  of  the  writing  as  drawing.   I 
think  I  have  stayed  away  from  the  figurative  work  lately 
because  I  think  somehow  we  haven't  been  able  to  find  a  figura 
tive  manner  that  works  in  our  own  time.   Or  at  least  I  can't 
find  one  that  I'm  comfortable  with.   And  I  feel  that  letters 


are  objects,  just  like  fruit  and  people  and  roads  and  cars; 
so  that  I'm  just  drawing  the  words. 

GALM:   Do  you  ever  purposely  slow  down  the  viewer,  so  that 
they  will  actually  read  what  you've  chosen? 

CORITA:   Well,  this  has  been  one  of  the  nice  by-products,  I 
think.   I  don't  think  I  intended  it  that  way  in  the  first 
place  because  I  think  when  I'm  writing  the  words,  I  am  some- 
what conscious  of  the  legibility.   That  is,  if  I  know  it 
really  can't  be  read,  I'll  go  back  and  change  a  word.   But  if 
it's  just  slightly  difficult,  I  think  that's  okay — if  it  looks 
good.   So  that  those  things,  I  suppose,  are  of  equal  concern — 
that  it  look  good,  and  that  it  be  legible,  at  least  with  some 
work.   But  I  don't  try  to  make  it  difficult. 

GALM:   I  think  there  is  quite  a  difference  in  color,  too,  in 
your  latest  ones. 

CORITA:   Very  different,  yes.   These  are  very  muted  colors. 
And  those  are  very  bright. 

GALM:   Do  you  have  any  from  the  Vietnam  days? 

CORITA:  Yes.  This  one  [Stop  the  Bombing]  was  one  based  on  a 
peom  written  by  Gerald  Huckaby,  with  whom  I  did  a  book  [City, 
Uncity ]  at  one  time;  and  again,  these  are  words  probably  taken 
from  a  newspaper  or  magazine  and  photographed  on  a  curve,  with 
the  words  of  the  poem  written  smaller.  And  then  there  were  a 
couple  here,  this--the  two  Berrigans  burning  the  draft  cards, 
with  the  beautiful  statement  which  Thoreau  made  about--what 


does  he  say?   "Under  a  government  which  imprisons  unjustly, 
the  true  place  for  a  just  man  is  also  in  prison."   [Phil  and 
Dan]   And  another — this  is  a  kind  of  interesting  print,  which 
I  just  noticed  this  morning  in  looking  through  these.   [Love 
at  the  End]   This  section  in  here,  without  the  little  square, 
was  a  book  cover  I  did  for  one  of  Dan  Berrigan's  books  [Love, 
Love  at  the  End] ;  and  then  later  we  got  the  idea,  when  I  was 
working  with  the  people  at  Botolph,  of  using  just  the  heart 
and  the  word  as  a  greeting  card.   And  then  this  year,  I've 
taken  that  design  and  blown  it  up  into  a  serigraph.   [Yes] 
GALM:   I  believe  that's  the  one  on  the  front  door  that  we  saw. 
CORITA:   The  one  on  the  front  door,  right.   So  it's  had  an 
interesting  history. 

GALM:   Talking  about  the  gallery  itself,  when  did  you  put  up 
the  sign  [the  large  "Corita"  signature]  out  front?   When 
did  you  have  that  done? 
CORITA:   I  think  that  must  be  about  three  years  old  by  now. 


APRIL  20,  1976  [video  session  cont'd] 

GALM:   And  when  was  that?   Was  that  used  before,  somewhere 


CORITA:   No,  that  was  just  a  plain  unused  fence.   And  we 

just  took  a  signature  and  had  a  sign  painter  blow  it  up. 

GALM:   It's  very  dramatic. 

CORITA:   People  were  having  a  hard  time  finding  us,  for  one 

thing.   They  would  get  lost  in  the  neighborhood.   So  we 

thought  that  would  be  a  help  to  them  to  find  us. 

GALM:   I  think  it's  curious  that  when  we  came  today--!  had 

been  here,  of  course,  before--and  this  morning,  when  I 

arrived,  there  was  all  kinds  of  graffiti  on  the  walls,  on 

the  building  surrounding  the  fence,  but  nothing  on  the  fence 


CORITA:   Yes,  we  were  grateful  for  that. 

GALM:   Sacred  property  or  something. 

CORITA:   Yes. 

GALM:   Why  don't  we  look  at  something  from  the  circus 

series?   Do  you  have  something  from  there,  like  The  Greatest 

Show  of  Worth? 

CORITA:   Yes,  we  have  The  Greatest  Show. 

GALM:   Does  that  come  in  two  sections? 

CORITA:   Yes,  in  fact  these  are  two  letters.   It  was  the 

summer  of  '68- '69  that  I  did--maybe  if  you  hold  that  one. 


I'll  hold  this  one--I  did  two  alphabets,  one  of  them  with 

the  circus  letters  and  the  circus  theme.   And  this  was  for 

the  G  and  that  was  for  the  0.   Put  them  together,  it  reads 


GALM:   Oh,  I  see.   [laughter] 

CORITA:   And  they  were  meant  to  be  used  separately,  if 

anybody  wanted  to.   I  felt  they  worked  as  single  prints, 

and  yet,  at  the  same  time,  they  could  be  put  together  and 

used  as  a  big  print.   And  then  that  same  summer,  I  did  the 

International  Signal  Code  flags  and  worked  designs  in  with 

them.   That's  the  0  of  the  Signal  Code.   [0  m^  God] 

GALM:   How  many  are  in  that  series? 

CORITA:   There  are  twenty-seven.   I  think  there  are  more, 

because  they  have  other  words  that  they  have,  but  I  just 

did  the  twenty-seven.   And  then  these  worked  into  the  circus 

book.   We  just  simply  reproduced  them  into  the  book  that  Holt 

published  [Damn  Everything  but  the  Circus] . 

GALM:   Is  the  Love  series  one  of  the  more  popular  prints 

that  you've  done? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  Love  is  always  a  very  popular  .... 

GALM:   Or  don't  you  even  think  of  one  being  more  popular 

than  the  other? 

CORITA:   Or  one  being  more  loved  than  the  other,  yes. 

GATiM:   Okay.   Why  don't  we  sit  down  and  talk  about  a  few 

other  things  surrounding  your  life,  or  as  part  of  your  life? 


This  interview,  of  course,  is  being  done  as  part  of  the 
series  that  we're  doing  at  UCLA  on  the  Los  Angeles  art 
community.   And  you've  mentioned  some  of  the  individuals. 
You've  mentioned  Charles  Eames  and  the  role  that  he  played 
in  your  life  and  really  within  the  art  department  as  a 
visitor  at  Immaculate  Heart.   Were  there  any  other  artists 
in  the  Los  Angeles  area  that  you  knew  well? 

CORITA:   It's  hard  for  me  to  distinguish,  because  the  first 
person  who  came  to  my  mind  was  Buckminster  Fuller.   I  think 
we  were  never  too  choosy  about  whether  people  were  artists 
or  just  people  with  ideas.   So  we  kind  of  sought  out  the 
people  with  ideas  and  principles  and  made  our  association 
with  them,  rather  than  just  finding  artists. 
GALM:   Did  you  interact  at  all  with,  say,  other  art  depart- 
ments in  the  area,  or  wasn't  it  really  necessary? 
CORITA:   No,  we  really  didn't.   We  would  try  to.   We  would 
take  the  students  out  to  different  exhibits  and  galleries. 
And  of  course  many,  many  times,  we'd  go  to  UCLA  or  USC  for 
shows,  because  they  put  on  some  very  good  shows.   But  outside 
of  that,  we  didn't  really  work  with  any  other  art  departments. 
GALM:   Was  there  an  art  community? 
CORITA:   A  student  art  community? 

GALM:   No,  no.   A  practicing  artist  that  you  really  .  .  .  ? 
CORITA:   Well,  in  the  fifties,  when  I  first  started  exhibiting 
prints,  we  met  a  lot  of  the  printmakers  who  were  in  the  same 


shows.   We  traded  prints  and  got  to  know  some  of  them.   I'm 

trying  to  think  and  see  if  I  can  remember  some  of  the  names. 

They  don't  come  to  me  now.   But  we  were  associated  more 

with  printmakers,  I  think,  than  with  painters. 

GALM:   Were  there  any  particular  galleries  that  you  followed 

religiously,  their  shows? 

CORITA:   Well,  of  course,  when  La  Cienega  started,  we 

found  that,  and  the  County  Museum  was  always  a  favorite. 

I'm  trying  to  think  of  the  name  of  the  gallery  out  on 

Sunset,  which  was  really  the  first  gallery  that  brought  the 

New  York  work  to  L.A.  quickly.   I  don't  remember  the  name  of 


GALM:   I  don't  think  it's  the  Ferus  gallery,  is  it?   That 

would  be  later;  that  was  on  La  Cienega. 

CORITA:   Was  that  on  La  Cienega?   Was  it  originally  on 


GALM:   Possibly. 

CORITA:   Yes,  it  could  have  been,  could  have  been. 

GALM:   Well,  in  our  other  interviews,  we  sort  of  brought  you 

up  to  the  point  at  which  you  left  for  Boston,  but  we  really 

never  talked  too  much  about  your  decision  to  leave.   How  did 

the  decision  within  the  community  itself  to  form  a  lay 

community  affect  your  decision? 

CORITA:   Well,  actually  that  decision  was  made  after  I  left. 

GALM:   So  that  didn't  apply  at  all. 


CORITA:   By  about  two  years.   No. 

GALM:   Did  you  participate  at  all  in  the  general  chapter  of 

[the  Sisters  of  the  Immaculate  Heart  of  Mary]? 

CORITA:   Yes,  yes.   I  was  at  the  chapters  the  two  summers 

before  I  left,  in  which  the  changes  certainly  began.   I 

suppose  those  were  really  the  two  important  ones  which  were 

the  turning  point  of  the  community. 

GALM:   Were  you  one  of  the  delegates,  then? 

CORITA:   Yes,  yes. 

GALM:   At  that  point,  when  you  established,  as  a  result  of 

the  chapters — are  they  called  decrees  of  renewal? 

CORITA:   Yes. 

GALM:   Did  you  feel  that  it  would  run  into  the  problems  that 

they  eventually  did? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  that  it  was  a  funny  situation,  a 

rather  unique  situation,  because  I  think  we  were  used  to 

being  in  trouble,  you  know,  in  many  ways.   I  think  especially 

in  the  art  department  we  were,  both  because  some  of  the 

alumni  who  were  more  conservative  and  were  nervous  about 

any  kind  of  change  were  nervous  about  us  as  we  changed-- 

and  I  think,  as  long  as  we  kept  alive,  we  keep  changing--and 

then  [also  because]  the  community  at  large,  I  think,  was 

somewhat  nervous  because  the  I.H.M.'s  were  doing  things  that 

they  thought  hadn't  been  done  before.   Actually,  I  think 

many  of  the  things  that  the  I.H.  community  was  doing  had 

already  been  done  by  other  communities  in  the  East  or  in  the 


Midwest.   But  it  depends  so  much  on  the  attitude  of  the 
hierarchy  in  the  different  areas.   If  the  top  man  is  a 
progressive  person,  then  the  changes  come  much  more  gradually 
and  gently.   But  in  the  Los  Angeles  situation,  there  was 
an  extreme  rigidity  on  the  part  of  the  hierarchy.   So 
that  what  should  have  been  very  normal  growing — organic 
changes  were  not  allowed  to  be  organic  because  everything 
that  changed  created  such  a  big  sensation  that  it  blew  it 
out  of  proportion.   So  that  that  was  unfortunate,  especially 
for  the  people  outside  the  community  who  didn't  quite  under- 
stand what  all  the  fuss  was  about,  or  why  we  made  such  a 
big  fuss — for  example,  why  we  were  so  insistent  about 
changing  the  habit  or  not  wearing  the  habit,  whereas  that 
didn't  seem  a  very  big  thing  to  them  (they  thought  we  should 
just  continue  wearing  it) .   But  we  began  to  feel  that  it  was 
a  long  overdue  change,  and  that  this  separated  us  from  the 
people  we  were  working  with,  and  that  it  also  had  something 
to  do  in  sort  of  allowing  the  people  in  the  community  to 
be  individuals.   Like  any  kind  of  uniform,  it  had  serious 
drawbacks.   And  I  think  as  we  became  more  and  more  alerted 
to  the  drawbacks,  we  thought  it  was  normal  to  change.   But 
the  people  who  were  more  conservative — I  think  they  often 
feel  that  one  little  change  is  going  to  lead  to  many  others 
(and  they're  certainly  right).   I  think  that's  why  they're 
so  frightened  by  little  changes. 


GALM:   Where  did  they  really  feel  that  you  were  going? 
What  was  the  real  danger  that  they  saw,  or  was  it  an 
unknown  danger? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  it  was  the  unknown,  largely,  because 
the  nuns  had  always  looked  like  this.   And  I  think  that 
one  of  the  very  serious  reasons  for  our  being  so  insistent 
on  the  habit  was  that  people,  for  the  most  part,  or  many 
people — I'm  not  talking  about  the  people  who  are  able  to 
carry  themselves--but  many  people  sort  of  had  their  religion 
in  us.   And  when  we  changed,  it  was  almost  as  if  their 
religion  was  changing.   Which  is  a  very  sad  commentary  on 
their  religion,  you  know,  if  the  mode  of  dress — which, 
as  we  know,  has  always  changed  through  the  centuries — 
would  mean  that  much  to  them,  would  become  that  big  an 
issue.   It  was  really  a  nonissue. 

GALM:   Yes.   Did  Immaculate  Heart  lose  much  support  from 
its  alumni  as  a  result  of  the  change? 

CORITA:   I  don't  know.   We've  never  had,  especially  in  the 
past,  much  financial  support  from  the  alumni,  mostly  because 
the  people  who  went  to  school  were  not  that  wealthy  or 
their  husbands  graduated  from  other  schools,  which  made  it 
difficult.   [laughter]   But  I  think  the  alumni  support  has 
increased  within  the  last  few  years. 

GALM:   Was  the  community  surprised  by  the  action  that  Rome 
took  on  the  decrees? 


CORITA:   I  think  by  the  time  they  were  actually  out,  we 

knew  there  would  be  difficulty.   We  had  hopes  that  they 

would  see  what  was  happening  as  an  organic  movement.   And 

I  think,  perhaps  again,  if  we  had  had  a  different  hierarchy, 

Rome  might  have  heard  a  different  story. 

GALM:   But  you,  of  course,  had  anticipated  that  you  wouldn't 

be  getting  strong  support. 

CORITA:   Or  strong  approval.   We  never  expected  strong 


GALM:   From  the  local  hierarchy.   But  possibly  that  Rome 

might  go  along  with  you? 

CORITA:   Yes. 

GALM:   Well,  I  know  that  in  one  of  the  issues  of  the  alumni 

news  [Alumnae  on  the  Move,  Spring  1968] ,  there  was  an 

article  which  really  explained  the  community's  position. 

And  the  position  that  it  seemed  to  delineate  was  that  a 

nun  was  also  a  woman.   ["We'll  Admit  It:   A  Nun  Is  a  Woman"] 

CORITA:   Right. 

GALM:   When  did  that  start  opening  up  within  the  community, 

the  sort  of  almost  a  tie-in  with  the  feminist  movement,  but 

probably  at  a  different  level? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  in  history,  there  comes  a  time  for 

things,  and  then  they  pop  up  in  different  areas,  without 

the  different  areas  being  aware  that  the  other  is  doing  the 

same  things.   And  I  think  that  this  was  one  of  those  cases 


where  the  time  had  come  when  people  were  beginning  to 

pay  much  more  attention  to  the  fact  of  individuality.   Of 

course,  the  rules  of  the  communities  were  written  by  men 

originally,  and  they  had  been  followed  for  so  many  centuries. 

And  I  think  the  longer  things  aren't  done,  the  harder  it  is 

to  change  them.   So  I  think  a  great  many  of  us  went  along 

being  very  concerned  with  the  work  we  were  doing,  teaching 

and  so  forth,  and  were  not  as  concerned  with  ourselves  as 

people  until  we  began  to  realize,  along  with  everybody 

else,  that  what  happened  to  the  individual  is  largely  what 

happens  to  the  community;  and  that  if  the  individual  is 

developed  to  her  fullest  extent,  that  can  only  be  good  for 

the  other  people  that  she's  working  with  or  for.   But  I 

think  that's  a  new  concept — say,  since  Jung  and  Freud  and 

the  people  who  first  began  to  see  that  individual  problems 

meant  that  the  people  were  individual. 

GALM:   It  must  have  been  a  difficult  decision  to  make — to 


CORITA:   For  me  to  leave? 

GALM:   The  community.   Or  again,  was  it  maybe  a  decision 

that  made  itself? 

CORITA:   Well,  in  a  way,  I  suppose  when  I  left  that  summer, 

it  was  only  for  the  summer.   And  then  when  I  got  back  East 

and  was  all  quiet  and  peaceful,  it  just  seemed  that  it  wasn't 

possible  to  go  back.   So  in  a  sense,  I  made  the  decision 


after  I  had  gotten  out,  or  after  I  had  gone  away.   And  I 
think  the  decision  was  then  made  in  the  years  that  followed, 
rather  than  the  years  that  preceded,  with  a  lot  of  the 
thinking.   Because  I  had  never  thought  of  leaving  up  till 
that  point,  so  I  wasn't  having  any  difficulty  with  the 
thought.   But  after  I  left,  I  looked  back.   And  I've  never 
had  any  regrets  about  leaving,  even  though  there  have 
been  difficulties. 

GALM:   What  have  been  some  of  those  difficulties? 
CORITA:   Well,  I  think  the  idea  of  living  alone  for  the 
first  time  in  my  life.   I'd  grown  up  in  a  big  family  and 
had  always  been  with  a  large  group  of  people.   Of  course, 
in  the  community  there  were  500  or  600.   And  in  the  house  I 
lived  for  about  fifteen  years,  there  were  about  110  people. 
So  I  was  accustomed  to  having  a  lot  of  stimulating  people 
around  me. 

GALM:   Are  there  new  joys  that  come  with  it? 
CORITA:   Certainly. 
GALM:   What  are  those? 

CORITA:   Well,  I  think  a  calmer  life,  and  a  chance  for  more 
inner  development,  which  I  think  is  not  only  different 
but  also  normal  for  a  person.   As  you  know,  as  you  finish 
the  extreme  active  part  of  your  life,  the  part  that  is  out- 
ward, you  tend  then  to  want  to  develop  what  hasn't  had  a 
chance  yet.   And  I  think  I'm  having  that  chance  to  develop 


more  inwardly  than  I  had  before, 



Adler,  Mortimer 

American  Artist  Group 

American  Institute  of  Architects 

Andrews,  Michael 

Arts  and  Architecture  (periodical) 

Avery,  Milton 


Berrigan,  Daniel 

The  Raft  Is  Not  the  Shore 
Berrigan,  Philip 

Blessed  Sacrament  School,  Los  Angeles 
Bloome,  Mark  C,  Tire  Company 
Boston  Tea  Party  discotheque 
Boston  University 
Botolph  Group,  Inc. 
Botolph  Group  Gallery 
Burnett,  Hobart 








68-72,  92,  104, 



71-72,  138-139 








126,  139 

California  State  Fair,  Sacramento 

Carpenter,  Eleanor 

Carrig,  Carol 

Carroll,  Lewis 

Catholic  Girls  High  School 

see  Conaty  High  School 
Chapelle  du  Rosaire,  Vence,  France 
Chavez,  Cesar 
Chouinard  Art  Institute 
Claremont  Colleges 
Collins,  Gladys 
Collins,  Judy 

Conaty  High  School,  Los  Angeles 
Container  Corporation  of  America 
Continuum  (periodical) 
Corita  Prints  gallery 

Never-Again  show 
Cox,  Harvey 

23,  129 







8,  39,  106 



3,  5,  14 



42,  112-150 




Dietrich,  Marlene 
Downey,  Frank 
Downey,  Mary  Kent 


112,  117-118 

48-49,  66,  112-128 

Eames,  Charles 

Textiles  and  Ornainental  Arts 
of  India 

Two  Baroque  Churches  in  Germany 
Eames,  Ray 
Eisenstein,  Sam 
Elliott,  Jim 
Entenza,  John 

7,  10-11,  24,  36, 
37-39,  54,  58-59, 
131,  142 


61,  64 

Feininger,  Lyonel 
Ferus  Gallery 
Fortune  (periodical) 
Fuller,  Buckminster 
Fullerton  College 







Girard,  Alexander 
Glascock,  Baylis 
Goodall,  Don 
Gottlieb,  Adolph 
Group  W 

see  Westinghouse  Broadcasting 
Gusten,  Theodore 
Gutheim,  Fritz 





Hallmark  Cards,  Inc. 

Hambly,  Harry 

Hanh,  Thich  Nhat 

Harper  &  Row  Publishers,  Inc. 

Harvard  University 

Heinz  ketchup 

Herder  and  Herder 

Holt,  Rinehart  and  Winston,  Inc 

62,  87 









Hubbard,  Celia 
Huckaby,  Gerald 
City,  Uncity 




102-104,  126 

Immaculate  Heart  College 

Alumnae  on  the  Move  (periodical) 
Great  Men  series 
Mary ' s  Day 

"Survival  with  Syle"  exhibit 

International  Business  Machines 

International  Graphic  Arts  Society 

International  Walk  for  Development 

4,  7-13,  18-21, 

23-26,  29-44,  50-58, 

60-63,  67-75,  81, 

85,  87-89,  92-103, 

105-107,  110-112, 

114-118,  120,  131, 




30-36,  45, 





60,  62, 
76,  109,  116-117 

44,  72-75 

Jimenez,  Juan 
John  XXIII  (pope) 


Kandinski,  Vasili 

Kelley,  Helen 

Kennedy,  John 

Kent,  Bridget  (grandmother) 

Kent,  Edith  Sanders 

Kent,  Mark 

Kent,  Mary 

see  Downey,  Mary  Kent 
Kent,  Richard  (brother) 
Kent,  Richard  (grandfather) 
Kent,  Robert  Vincent 
Kent,  Sister  Ruth 
Klee,  Paul 

74,  79 

30-31,  34,  100 



1-2,  ^.  ,     6,  49-50,  124 

15,  48-49,  66,  125 



1-2,  4-6,  125 

16-17,  49,  125 


Laliberte,  Norman 
Laporte,  Paul 
Lavanoux,  Maurice 
Lewis,  David 

47,  76,  80 
7-8,  50-51 
80,  82 


Liturgical  Arts  (periodical)  46,  47 

Los  Angeles  City  College  109 

Los  Angeles  County  Museum  of  Art  22,  29,  60-61 

63-64,  129 

Los  Angeles  Times  (newspaper)  121 


McGannon,  Donald  80 

McGowan,  Paula  73-74 

Mclntyre,  James  Francis  Cardinal  34,  145-147 

McPartlin,  Sister  Regina  112 

Magdalen  Mary,  Sister  18-21,  24,  41 

Martinez,  Alfredo  25 

Martinez,  Mrs.  Alfredo  25-26 

Matisse,  Henri  130 

Mead,  Margaret  97 

Merton,  Thomas  7  0 

Seven  Story  Mountain  70 

Merton,  Thomas,  Center,  New  York  7  0 

Michelangelo  31 

Pieta  80 
Minnesota  Mining  and  Manufacturing  Co.     132 

Monahan,  Robert  75 

Mother  of  Good  Counsel  School,  77 

Los  Angeles 

Motherwell,  Robert  27 

Mullen,  Jack  121 

Museum  of  Modern  Art  23,  54 

Myers,  Michaela  73-74 


National  Art  Education  Association  56-58,  65 

National  Gallery  of  Art  59-60,  63-64 

Neuendorff,  Evelyn  125 

Neutra,  Richard  39 

Newsweek  (periodical)  81 

New  York  V7orld's  Fair,  1964  47-48,  76-80 

Vatican  Pavilion  47-48,  76-80 

Noemi,  Sister  4 


Oberstein,  Martin  14 

Otis  Art  Institute  3 

Ottobeuren,  Germany  10-11 


Pasadena  Art  Museum  29 

Pew,  Mary  Jean  68 

Pintauro,  Joe  108-109 

Renaissance  Pleasure  Faire  33 

Rilke,  Rainer  Maria  44 

Rothko,  Mark  28 

Rucki,  Lambert  130 

Saanich  Indian  School  16-17 

Sacramento  State  Fair  23,  129 

Sacred  Heart  Elementary  School,  16-17 

British  Columbia 

Sanders,  Adeline  1-3 

Sanders,  Herman  1-3 

Schardt,  Alois  7-13,  131 

Schindler,  Rudolph  39 

Seeger,  Pete  65 

Shahn,  Ben  28-29,  44 

Sisters  of  Immaculate  Heart  of  Mary  144-148 

see  also  Immaculate  Heart  College 

Statler  Hilton  Hotel,  Los  Angeles  57-53 

Sternberg,  Josef  von  24 

Taylor,  John  65 

Thomson,  Virgil  24 

Thoreau,  Henry  David  138 

Time  (periodical)  81 


Unamuno,  Miguel  de  4  9 

United  Church  79 

United  Farm  Workers  of  America  133 

Univeristy  of  California,  Berkeley  75 

University  of  California,  Los  Angeles  4,  18,  20,  142 

University  of  Southern  California  8,  12,  18,  20,  22, 

25-27,  142 


Vierzen-Heiligen,  Germany  10-11 

Villicich,  Donna  65 

Vinci,  Leonardo  da  31 


Watts  Towers  59 

"We'll  Admit  It:   A  Nun  Is  a  Woman"  147 

(article.  Alumnae  on  the  Move) 

Westinghouse  Broadcasting  Company  80-84,  86 

The  Corita  Collection  81 

Winterfest,  Boston  83 

Woodbury  University  18 

World  Council  of  Churches  65-67,  73 

World's  Fair,  1964,  New  York  47-48,  76-80 

Yale  University  86 

Yates,  Peter  24 



A  Man  You  Can  Lean  On  122 

Benedictio  12-13,  131 

Bicentennial  print  (untitled)  133,  134 

Bird  of  the  Rainbow  135 

Christ  and  Mary  47 

City,  Uncity  (book)  138 

Corita  Collection,  The;  An  Expression    81 
of  Broadcasting  Philosophy 
(portfolio,  Westinghouse) 

Damn  Everything  but  the  Circus  141 

Footnotes  and  Headlines  (book)  108 

Go  Slow  91-92 

Greatest  Show  of  Worth,  The  series  140-141 

Growing  135 

Ha  132 

Heart  of  the  City  49-50 

He  Gives  Us  the  Gift  of  Life  133 

High  Cards  (book)  126 

I  Am  the  Sacred  Words  of  the  Earth  137 
(shell  writing  #3) 

I.  Love  You  Very  132 

In  92,  93-94 

International  Signal  Code  series  141 

International  Walk  for  Development  134 


Let  Him  Easter  in  Us  132 

Lord  Is   with  Thee,  Thf  22-23,  40,  128-130 

Love  series  141 

Love  at  the  End  139 

Luke  91-92 

Now  Is  Enough  (shell  writing  #8)  136 

0  my  God  141 

Our  Original  Nature  (shell  writing  #7)   136-137 

Phil  and  Dan  139 

Rainbow  135 

Shell  writing  series  136-137 

Stop  the  Bombing  138 

Tiger  91-93 

To-Believe-In  series  (books)  108-109 

To  Believe  in  God  (book)  109,  126 

To  Believe  in  Man  (book)  109,  126 

To  Believe  in  Things  (book)  109,  126 

Tomato  109-111 

Who  Came  out  of  the  Water  132 

Wonderbread  5  0 

Yellow  Spring  50 

Yes  139 

You  Are  Alive  (shell  writing  #4)  137 

You  Can  Never  Lose  Me  137 



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